Over the course of this week I have found myself pondering what is really important in life. I have been dealing with many situations around Ignite which seem terribly important to those involved. I’ve been dealing with plans, extensions, programs, finances, relationships.

But this week we’ve had the passing and celebration of Lorna’s life, and frankly it put things into a rather stark perspective!

Here us running around like cooks without heads, full of energy, full of action, pursuing what we think it’s important in life… but God stopped me for a time…

 

Jesus sobered Martha up when she complained…

 

Luke 10:41-42 (ESV Strong’s)

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

WHAT BENDS YOU OUT OF SHAPE?

 

Most people die with regrets. Many of the things we have blown up about and ruined relationships over, most of what we fight doggedly for today, have no meaning in eternity and aren’t really important in life.  Some of you thought rock music was satanic, and that dancing was of the devil. Some thought women wearing makeup or shorts was offensive, or going to the cinema was sinful…

 

Styles change, opinions change, preferences change, but Jesus is a constant…

 

Hebrews 13:8 (ESV Strong’s)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

 

But we get so steamed up about things that ultimately, in eternity, don’t matter, in fact, they don’t even matter in a month or two.  We get mad because the traffic was bad, someone charged me too much, she said this about me! We fight traffic, fight each other, fight for our rights. In our affluent society, where we have more stuff than ever before, everybody fights for their so called rights.

 

Ask yourself… are these things really important in life? In one year, 5 years, 10 years you won’t even remember that has you so angered or offended right now!

 

HOW DO WE GET A TRUE PERSPECTIVE…

 

Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV Strong’s)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

 

We are so blessed in Australia, but we always manage to find something to whine and complain about, don’t we.  Listen here’s a perspective…

 

If you have had an education and know how to read, then you are more blessed that over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.

 

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week.

 

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

 

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change lying in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.

 

And if you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, You are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

 

It’s amazing how humbling this realisation is…to know that the poorest of us in this room are richer than most of the rest of the world, and yet we never have enough?

 

So let me begin this message on what’s really important in life by asking the reverse…

 

WHAT’S NOT IMPORTANT IN LIFE?

 

I want to mention some things that you might think are important right now, that the world tells you are important, but when you get to the end of your life and are ready to face judgement, they simple aren’t important in life at all!

 

1.      RELAXATION, RECREATION, CONVENIENCE AND ENJOYMENT

 

We joke about 1st world problems!

 

Recently my niece visited and didn’t get a joke I made. I was ordering a pizza, and tracking it on my phone, and feigned outrage that it was 3 minutes overdue. She thought I was serious and told me about people in the world with not enough to eat…

 

Most of our life is spent in the pursuit of comfort and convenience. We have instant gratification, instant coffee, microwaves and TV dinners. They even invented a microwave TV, so you can watch the show 60 minutes in just one minute.

 

People say they just want to have a good, fun life. You can, but the fun you’ve had, the experiences, the sin, it all is worthless in eternity!

 

We have so much! We have air conditioning for when it gets too hot, heating if it gets too cold. We don’t cultivate our food, we don’t plant and reap it at harvest time, we pick things off a supermarket shelf.

 

Jesus didn’t die to give you a good time and a comfortable

Iife.

 

The symbol for Christianity is a cross not a cushion. Comforts, convenience…  we’ve never had so many in history before, but people are more miserable than ever because they are selfish!

 

Christianity is not a life of self, it’s a life of sacrifice. It’s not about convenience it’s about conviction. We don’t seek good times we seek God’s glory.

 

Romans 8:18 (ESV Strong’s)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

 

2.      RICHES

 

Money is what we all strive for all of our lives, money so we can buy all the things we want. But in the end, money and possessions cannot buy happiness, you can just be miserable in comfort. Ultimately, it’s is just not important at all in life and especially in eternity. Solomon observed this…

 

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (ESV Strong’s)

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

 

The world tells us, markets to us, that money and what it buys are important in life.  Saw the dumbest bumper sticker ever… He who dies with the most toys wins. Utter rubbish, but most people live by it!

 

We strive all our life for bigger houses, cars, TVs, dining tables and computers. Do you think any of that matters one iota the second you die?

 

Heard of a rich man who was dying and asked his butler to pack a suitcase of gold bars. Miraculously as his spirit departed he grabbed the bag, and arrived in heaven with his precious bag. St Peter said, what’s in the bag, and he proudly opened it and displayed the contents. Peter asked, why did you bring a suitcase of road base? Jesus said,

 

Luke 12:15 (ESV Strong’s)

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

 

Jesus told the rich young ruler, who asked how to be saved, the following…

 

Mark 10:21-22 (ESV Strong’s)

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

 

Jesus wasn’t saying we can’t have money or nice things. But this young man didn’t have riches, riches had him. If possessions possess you, then God can’t. And shrouds DON’T have pockets, so in the end, on the day you die, in the light of eternity, all your possessions and riches simply don’t matter!

 

3.      REPUTATION AND POSITION

 

2 kids watched a funeral procession go by. One asked, who’s funeral, and the other replied, the local millionaire. Wow, said the first boy, how much money did he leave, and the second replied, all of it.

 

Position, reputation, like riches, they seem important but in the long run, in reality, they are worthless! They’re not really important in life. Many whom the world celebrates and champions right now will find their celebrity, fame, power and prestige worthless when they stand before God to be judged. Jesus said

 

Mark 10:42-43 (ESV Strong’s)

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

 

In eternity, servanthood matters, humility matters but position and reputation matters not at all.

 

4.      REGRETS AND PLANS

 

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV Strong’s)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

We make our plans, our great dreams of doing something awesome, and most people step into eternity with plans either unfulfilled, or completely messed up by things we did do?

 

In eternity our plans mean nothing. If you’re  too busy, too absorbed in something to serve the Lord, standing before Jesus one day saying, “Well Lord, I intended to ask You into my life. I intended to serve You.” Means nothing.

 

Guilt and regret consume some of us right now, both for things we have done, and the things we knew we should have done but haven’t. We’ve all done things we regret, but we need to remember that when we confess our sins He forgives us. Don’t let regret rob you of what’s important. I don’t want to face the judgement seat of Christ with regrets, knowing I squandered what God asked me to do, or I was so paralysed by guilt and shame I did nothing.

 

2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV Strong’s)

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

 

Don’t let guilt and regret tie you up and convince you they are really important in the long run.

 

5.      RELIGION AND LEGALISM

 

Time for a bit of controversy, but this one affects many people in churches, even ours… Legalism! I read Galatians this week, and Paul pulls no punches.

 

Galatians 5:7-9 (ESV Strong’s)

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

 

And it does…legalism is man’s rules instead of relationship, and it spreads like cancer in the church. But in the end, religion can’t save you, it only enslaves you. Only Jesus can save you!

 

Legalism is when people afflict upon you man made rules, usually in a pseudo spiritual guise. They will tell you God demands this or that, but beware because these are usually not true Biblical principles but that person’s preferences. In Paul’s day the legalistic debate  was about circumcision, but today it could be any number of legalistic, religious rules.

 

Max Lucado describes legalism as Jesus +. Jesus + evangelism, Jesus + giving, Jesus + rituals, Jesus + anything!

 

2 Timothy 2:14 (ESV Strong’s)

charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

 

Jesus describes the legalism of the religious leaders of His day as

 

Matthew 23:4 (ESV Strong’s)

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

 

Matthew 23:24 (ESV Strong’s)

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

 

Legalism sucks the life and the joy out of people, but ultimately it too will be worth nothing in eternity. You cannot get the heaven by following a set of rules, you need a relationship with Jesus, plus nothing!

 

WHAT LASTS FOREVER?

 

So these things aren’t really important in life, but let me summarise what really is important eternity. 3 things,

 

1.      GOD

 

Psalms 90:2 (ESV Strong’s)

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 

God is eternal, never starts, never ends.

 

2.      GOD’S WORD

 

Isaiah 40:8 (ESV Strong’s)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

 

God says His Word is Eternal… It stands forever, long after fashions, opinions,  philosophy, and worldly wisdom fades, it still stands. That’s why I want you to join us as we read the Bible reading plan, because God’s Word never fails!

 

Isaiah 55:11 (ESV Strong’s)

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

 

I have chose to build my life upon the Word of God,  not money, not fame, not success or prestige or your opinion of religious things we must or must not do, just God’s Word.

 

3.      THE SOULS OF MEN AND WOMEN

 

The souls of men and women live forever. Either in heaven or hell, but they exist forever. Therefore anything we can do that invests into people for eternity is valuable.

 

Relationships are valuable. I hate seeing people fight over things that aren’t important and compromising relationships that are. How dare we doggedly pursue our opinions of things and drive people away from God! Is our opinions, our interpretation, our comfort, our desires worth more than a soul lost to an eternity in hell?

 

And church is a classic battleground. How many have been hurt or offended by people in church and left church to wander sometimes for years away from God? Church, we need to get serious about this, because harsh rules and judgement won’t win people to Christ, but love and holiness will.

 

Romans 14:13 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

 

The soul is so important, because it’s eternal. Either in heaven or hell. All the money, prestige, fame, success, comfort or legalism in the world amounts to nothing if we lose our soul!

 

Matthew 16:26 (ESV Strong’s)

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

 

WHAT REALLY MATTERS IN ETERNITY?

 

Jesus told a parable that sums this all up…

 

Luke 12:16-21 (ESV Strong’s).

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

 

Only one life, t’will soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Are you willing to lay aside whatever is holding you back from true greatness in God?  What is it you need to let go of? What is it you currently concentrate on that seems important, but that on the day you die you’ll realise it was never that important at all?

 

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV Strong’s)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

 

We’re Better Together

At the start of this year, this new decade, it’s a great time to stop and seek God for the future. 2020 is the year of vision, and as we approach this year we want to have a clear vision of where God is leading us. I don’t want to just maintain, and I don’t want to stumble through this next year. I want to take ground from the enemy, to stand for Jesus in our area and our nation. I believe we are better together!

IF YOU WERE DYING

Let me ask you… If you were dying and had just 14 days to live, what would you do? Would you travel? Would you make peace with people? Ask forgiveness? Would you record a parting video or a song? I would!

 

OK, what if you had only 14 hours to live? What would your last actions on this earth be, and what would your last words be? Surely you’d want your last words on earth to be the  most important… You’d want your last words to be significant, right?

 

In the last few hours of His life, Jesus chose to pray. He was in the garden of Gethsemane. He faced the suffering of the cross and death, and He prayed,

 

Luke 22:42 (ESV Strong’s)

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

 

But the Apostle John gives us an even greater insight into Jesus’ thoughts at this most critical time.  He didn’t just pray for strength, or for His Father’s will, He spent a lot of time praying for you and I… The church.

 

In His final hours on earth Jesus prayed this… for believers…

 

John 17:17-23 (ESV Strong’s)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

 

Jesus last recorded act in earth before His arrest, trial and execution was to pray, and specifically to pray for unity among believers.

 

So as we face 2020, why is unity still so important?  Why are we better together?

 

2020… VISION OR DIVISION?

 

When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan, Jesus asked, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Then he said,

 

Mark 3:24-26 (ESV Strong’s)

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

 

Here’s the thing… Unity is unbelievably powerful, and division always destroys.

 

This holds true for any group, for good or for bad. Ants work together to carry far more than their body weight. Losing football teams can unite under a new coach and start to win.  In the 1930s the Nazis united people in their hatred of the Versailles treaty and Jews and plunged the world into genocide and war.

 

God has long recognised the power of unity… remember the Tower of Babel

 

Genesis 11:6 (ESV Strong’s)

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

 

God disrupted the unity of people then because He knew the power of unity. And Jesus prayed for unity among His people because He knows the power of unity, especially in the church today. Unity is so important Jesus prayed for it for us in His last hours on earth!

 

SATAN’S SECRET WEAPON

 

Remember, Satan’s aim is to kill, steal and destroy, both in your life and in the church. He wants to disrupt church, and his best secret superpower is disunity. When I look across the church in our country, it seems like to a degree he is winning!

 

I heard about a family from Sydney who moved west to raise cattle. When their friends visited and inquired about the ranch’s name, the would be farmer replied: “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favoured Thunder-Downunder one of our sons wanted the Flying-W, and the other liked the Suzy-Q. So we’re calling it the BAr-J-Thunder Downunder,Flying-W-Suzy Q.”

 

“But where are all your cattle?” the friends asked. The man replied…

 

“None survived the branding.”

 

Disunity destroys, and unity builds, especially in the Spirit. Unity is not agree on everything. It is agreeing to disagree agreeably. Any organisation, including a church, is full of people who will not agree on loads of things.

 

Our witness before the world is compromised by disunity, because what will convince the world, what will reveal the truth about God, is not our pet doctrine, not how aggressively we fight, not our judgemental attitude, not our religious practice… but our love, one for another.

 

John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong’s)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

When Jesus prayed in His last few hours on earth He prayed,

 

John 17:23 (ESV Strong’s)

I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

 

He didn’t pray that we would always agree, but that we might be one, and not just one but perfectly one. In the Greek perfectly is the word teleoo, the same word Jesus used on the cross as He died, tetelestai… It is finished, or it is complete. A church in unity is a shining beacon to a world in disarray!

 

THE POWER OF UNITY… BETTER TOGETHER!

 

Satan does not want us to discover the power of unity, and will do everything in his power to prevent it. That’s why Paul wrote,

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong’s)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

 

Like Fiona and I… I think we’re better together too.

 

Some of the most incredible trees on earth are the magnificent Californian  redwoods. They commonly grow to over 80 metres tall, the tallest one is actually 117.8 m tall. These trees stand like sentinels of time and have done so for hundreds of years. Some were living at the time Christ walked on earth.

 

They’ve survived winds, earthquakes, fires and storms—still they stand.

 

You would imagine that each tree has enormous, strong and incredible deep roots to survive all they have. But I’m fact they have a comparably shallow root system, yet they rarely ever fall. How do they keep standing even in the wildest of storms or earthquakes? It’s because the redwood’s root systems reach out for great distances sideways, not down, and their roots are intertwined with one another. They literally hold each up other up.

 

If you and I are going to reach our full potential in 2020, if this church is to be all it should be in the next decade, we too need the support of each other, to be not overdependent but inter-dependent. We need unity!

 

Jesus never prayed for agreement in the hours before His death, He prayed that in our inability to agree we would still be one, be complete in each other. Why? Because we are better together. Let me share 3 areas we have to deal with to obtain unity in 2020…

 

1.      PRIDE

 

We all have it, and it destroys unity and must be dealt with.

 

1 Peter 5:5 (ESV Strong’s)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 

We all have our own ideas, preferences or agendas. Unity doesn’t change the way you’d prefer to do things, but it gives you the maturity and wisdom to overlook the differences.

 

My uncle was a old man when I was young in the church I attended. He showed up to everything that had youth or young adult on it. I asked him why. He said that although he hated the music, the loudness and pretty much everything we did, he loved the kids, and wanted to show his support. He felt we were better together.

 

2.      PEACE

 

Romans 14:19 (ESV Strong’s)

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

 

As human beings, we talk about peace but rarely pursue it, because we are busy pursuing what we want instead. Jesus said in John 14:27, peace I leave you, and that peace should be manifest primarily through the church. But if you looked at churches today you wouldn’t think so!

 

But how can we promote peace in our churches or families?

 

We maintain peace and unity by guarding what we say, and building one another up mutually. We need to guard what we say and how we say it, and speak words of life, encouragement and peace.

 

But if you don’t have peace within you, how can you show it to those around you? You need be at peace personally. You get more peace the closer you get to God…

 

Psalms 119:165 (ESV Strong’s)

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

 

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV Strong’s)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 

To have peace in church we need people whose minds are on God, and therefore who are at peace with God. This is why I’m asking you to join us and commit to the Bible reading plan, because in unity we can grow strong together and live in peace.

 

3.      PREFERRING OTHERS

 

Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV Strong’s)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

Most disunity in church happens around people’s preferences. I know some dogmatic, judgemental Christians who honestly think their opinion is gospel. Regardless of your opinion on something, you should put others first and honour them, not attack them because they disagree with your opinion.

 

There are some fundamentals in the Christian faith that cannot be compromised, but there are many which we can disagree on but still be in fellowship with.

 

Beware of people who push their own opinions or preferences above their love of people around them. If we love our preferences more than we love people, we have disunity. But if we love people more than our preferences, our doctrines, our interpretations of Scripture or opinions, we will have unity.

 

WE NEED TO BE ONE

 

There is incredible blessing and power in unity. Not just the absence of conflict, but genuine, Holy Spirit power when we join our hearts in unity. And Satan loves to attack our unity, causing fights and divisions over issues that are non core, non gospel beliefs.

 

Honestly, we get so adamant, so judgemental, so aggressive about issues that are peripheral to the gospel, we grieve the Holy Spirit and dishonour the unity that was so clearly important to Jesus that He devoted His last moments as a free man to. In this new year, it’s time to let it go for the sake of the Kingdom!

 

When Paul addresses the wayward church at Corinth, he highlights a situation where the animosity was so great between believers that actually took each other to court! But his words to that extreme case have relevance for any disagreement when he writes…

 

1 Corinthians 6:7 (ESV Strong’s)

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

 

Let me pose the question… What not forsake your opinion on non essential beliefs and just love each other? You could win the debate, but God’s Kingdom loses in the long term.

 

THE BLESSED OF THE BLESSED IN 2020

 

What we need to move forward in 2020 is not the best of the best, but the blessed of the blessed, and we only achieve this when we are in unity.

 

Psalms 133:1,3 (ESV Strong’s)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

 

And with this unity comes great blessing, even life forever more, salvation!  Paul writes,

 

Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV Strong’s)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

At the start of 2020, I’ve been praying earnestly about this year and our future, and I am absolutely convinced that unity is the key for us. We are better together, whether we agree or not, we are better together!

 

This year we have a great and unique opportunity at Ignite to shine the light of the gospel into our nation, but we will never grow strong and shine in the darkness without unity!

 

That’s why I’m asking you to join me in this great endeavour. Commit to coming to church in 2020. And when you come, let your preferences and opinions go, and let’s be one as Jesus prayed for us. Can we agree to disagree agreeably, and can we pull together to achieve all God has for us this decade.

 

JOIN OUR SHIELDS OF FAITH

 

In Ephesians 6 Paul talks about the armour of God. He lists the various parts of the armour every Christian should wear every day… The Helmet of Salvation, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the sword of the Spirit. Then he writes…

 

Ephesians 6:16 (ESV Strong’s)

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

 

The enemy attacks and causes disunity, and the shield of faith is our protection. Some people pray for this faith, but don’t connect with a church. You need to understand what Paul is referring to here, because he clearly has the Roman soldier in mind.

 

Roman soldiers didn’t fight alone. They performed a manoeuvre called the tortoise, where they joined their shields in front, behind, at the sides and the top. This gave them far superior protection to standing alone swinging at the enemy. The shield of faith is designed to be used not in isolation, but in unity with other believers.

 

So this morning , at the start of 2020, I’m asking you to join us and stand together as one body, just as Jesus prayed for us to be. Together we are better.

Running to Win

As a new decade dawns, we can float along, sit back and comply or we can rise up, be Running to Win and stand and fight for what is right. What lies ahead for us in 2020, and how can we obtain it?

Our nation needs us.

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

 

Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV Strong’s)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

 

Paul was a guy who never felt like he had arrived… He never rested on his laurels. He kept run Nb, kept striving and kept reaching if more and more. I want o be that guy, don’t you?

 

RUNNING TO WIN IN 2020?

 

Looking back is easy because hindsight is 2020 vision. The 1920s were considered a roaring good time after the misery of World War 1 in the 1910s. The 30s were misery again with the Great Depression, the 40s were war, the 50s shaped up pretty well with prosperity back, and the 60s were about rebellion. The 70s were less than memorable, the 80s gave us awesome music, the 90s destroyed most of that, the 2000s were about security risks and the 10s were for many quite tough. But the roaring 20s are back!

 

We are like athletes running a race, and that’s what Paul picks up on in this passage. At the start of this decade, I want to explore how we can make this year and decade a winning decade!

 

Paul uses that athletic illustration to inspire us on in life. The past is gone, the future is yet to be, but God’s gift to us is life right now, that’s why it’s is called the present!

 

Philippians 3:13 (ESV Strong’s)

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

 

Right at the start, let me point out that Paul is not salvation he is running to win. He is not pressing on to win the prize of salvation, because this is written to those who are saved. You are saved by faith, not your works, lest any many should boast. Just a few verses later he says,

 

Philippians 3:20 (ESV Strong’s)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

 

What he is running for, striving for, is reward, not salvation. To compete in the Greek games, athletes had to be citizens already, and no one competed for the prize of gaining citizenship.

 

All of us want to be “winning Christians” and fulfil the purposes for which we have been saved.

 

What are the essentials for running to win the race and one day receiving the reward that is promised?

 

  1. DISSATISFACTION (3:12-13a)

 

Most people today are dissatisfied. We live in a country that offers so much, and still we whine? Facebook is full of people just venting, with little knowledge, limited intelligence and zero tact, and when I return from nations like India or the Philippines, it turns my stomach when I hear people whine about how hard life is, because they can only afford a 55 inch TV. Some people find a way to moan and criticise, no matter how good things are. Some people can find the cloud in every silver lining!

 

But here Paul is talking about a sanctified dissatisfaction, which is the first essential to progress in the Christian race.

 

So what do I mean by sanctified dissatisfaction? Paul is content with his God, but not his spiritual achievements.

 

1 Timothy 6:6 (ESV Strong’s)

godliness with contentment is great gain,

 

Philippians 3:12 (ESV Strong’s)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

 

This is the statement of a great Christian who never permitted himself to be satisfied with his spiritual attainments. There’s always more!

 

The Greek word for perfect is teleioō, which means to make perfect, to finish or to complete, and it carries a sense of being able to look back and know the job has been done well.

 

What Paul is saying is, I’m not done yet!

 

COMPARED TO WHAT?

 

Comparison is often the enemy of spiritual maturity.

 

Comparison can be a dangerous thing, because we can err in two directions: (1) thinking ourselves better than we are, or (2) thinking ourselves worse than we really are. Paul had no illusions about himself; he still had to keep “pressing forward” in order to “lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold” of him.

 

Many Christians are self-satisfied because they compare their “running” with that of other Christians, usually those who are not making much progress. I’m not in out and out sin, I’m not a drug addict or a criminal, I’m not an axe murdered, therefore I’m ok. They feel superior.

 

Others feed their insecurity by comparing. I’ll never be as good as her, I can’t sing like her, or fix cars like him.

 

No good ever comes from comparing yourself to others, it’s a lose, lose.

 

2 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV Strong’s)

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

 

As I look at my personal life, my professional life, my church, I can see many trials, but also see great victories and progress. But I want more. I refuse to be satisfied, because until I draw my last breath, I’m going to strive and strain towards the prize and serve with all my heart, with a sanctified discontent!

 

  1. DEVOTION (3:13b)

 

This one thing I do… boy do I need to hear those words. I don’t know about you, but I can do many, many things, and I often get distracted by the shiny object syndrome. We need to focus, to be devoted to one thing above all.

 

King David, who did many amazing things in his life, wrote this…

 

Psalm 27:4 (ESV Strong’s)

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

 

Too many Christians, too many churches, including this one, are too involved in “many things.” The secret of progress is to concentrate on “one thing.” D. L. Moody the great evangelist discovered this. Before the tragedy of the Chicago fire in 1871, Moody was involved in Sunday school promotion, YMCA work, evangelistic meetings, and many other activities. After that tragic event, he determined to devote himself exclusively to evangelism, and became the greatest evangelist of his day. “This one thing I do” became a reality to him. As a result, millions of people heard the gospel.

 

So what one thing do you devote yourself to or focus on? The believer must devote himself to running the Christian race. No athlete succeeds by doing everything; he succeeds by specialising. A few athletes are proficient in multiple sports, but most specialise. The winners are those who concentrate, who keep their eyes on the goal and let nothing distract them. They are devoted entirely to their calling.

 

For the devil to win, he doesn’t have to make you sin to destroy you, he just has to distract you. What you focus on is what you get. As Zig Ziglar said,

 

“When you focus on problems you will have more problems. When you focus on possibilities you will have more opportunities.”

 

Concentration is the secret of power. If a river is allowed to overflow its banks, the area around it becomes a swamp. But if that river is dammed and controlled and concentrated, it becomes a source of incredible power. It is wholly a matter of values and priorities, living for that which matters most.

 

James 1:8 (ESV Strong’s)

a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

So like Nehemiah, let’s not get distracted by the many voices, the TV, the bad news, the poor advice, everybody’s opinion, the computer games or Facebook or anything else. God is calling us to keep the main thing the main thing. This one thing I do, because I’m running to win!

 

  1. DIRECTION (3:13c)

 

The unsaved person is controlled by the past, but the Christian running the race must look toward the future. If you are running a race, looking back slows you down, but focussing on the finish line drives you on. You cannot drive looking only in the rear vision mirror can you?

 

Philippians 3:13 (ESV Strong’s)

one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind

 

In Bible terminology, “to forget” does not mean “to fail to remember.” Apart from senility, amnesia, or a brain dysfunction, no mature person actually forgets what has happened in the past. We may wish that we could erase certain bad memories, our sins, our failures, our lost opportunities, but we cannot.

 

“To forget” is epi/lantha/nomai in the Greek, and it implies “no longer to be influenced by or affected by.” When God promises, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17), He is not suggesting that He has amnesia! This is impossible with God. What God is saying is, “I will no longer hold their sins against them. Their sins can no longer affect their standing with Me or influence My attitude toward them.”

 

So, “forgetting those things which are behind” does not suggest an impossible feat of mental and psychological gymnastics by which we try to erase memories of the sins and mistakes of the past. It simply means that we break the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change how it affects us now and in the future.

 

IN 2020, IT’S TIME TO MAKE THE PAST PAST AT LAST AND START RUNNING TO WIN!

 

Paul had done things he was ashamed of, and I bet there things you’ve done you you regret or feel guilty about. You can’t change the past, but you can change how you see the past.

 

Joseph could have let what his brothers did to him affect his actions, but he chose to forgive and forget their sins. Joseph knew that God had a plan for his life–a race for him to run–and in fulfilling that plan and looking ahead, he broke the power of the past.

 

Genesis 50:20 (ESV Strong’s)

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

 

Too many Christians are shackled by regrets of the past instead of running to win. They hold grudges, they are controlled by regret, shame and Unforgiveness.

 

They are trying to run the race by looking backward. No wonder they stumble and fall and then trip up other Christians. Some Christian runners are being distracted by the successes of the past, not the failures, and this is just as bad. “The things which are behind” must be set aside and “the things which are before” must take their place.

 

  1. DETERMINATION (3:14)

 

It is possible to have dissatisfaction, devotion, and direction and still lose the race and the reward. There is a fourth essential: determination.

 

“I press on.” The Greeks for press on is diōkō, which means to follow, pursue vigorously or follow after.   The Greeks used it to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. A man does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching movies, reading books, or watching the event on TV. He becomes a winning athlete by getting into the game and being  determined to win!

 

There are 2 extremes to avoid here…

Doing it yourself and not

listening to God,

and doing nothing hoping God does everything. Both are wrong.

 

Determination is required to achieve anything in life. So what is it that you pursue more vigorously than God? I see people pursuing a business, or a hobby or even a ministry more than they pursue intimacy Him! The race, the one thing you should do, is your relationship with Jesus, the prize is intimacy with Him, and anything else you pursue more vigorously is sin!

 

Isaiah 26:9 (ESV Strong’s)

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

 

What are you determinedly seeking? Are you running to win?

 

  1. DISCIPLINE (3:15-16)

 

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (ESV Strong’s)

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

 

Many of us fall down here… It is not enough to run hard, or be focused or determined; the runner must also obey the rules, and he must be disciplined if he is running to win.

 

In the Greek games, the judges were very strict about this. Any infringement of the rules disqualified the athlete. He did not lose his citizenship (though he disgraced it), but he did lose his privilege to participate and win a prize.

 

Cyclist Lance Armstrong was perhaps the most celebrated athlete of his time, but when it came out that he was guilty of doping and drug taking to performance enhance, he was stripped of all his medals from 1998 on, including 7 Tour De France titles. He was a cheat!

 

2 Timothy 2:5 (ESV Strong’s)

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

 

In Philippians 3:15-19 Paul reminds us that there are rules in this race, and some Christians don’t play by them, and so disqualify themselves instead of running to win.

 

The issue is not what a person thinks or what the spectators think, but what the judge says. The Bible says one day each Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12). The Greek word for “judgment seat” is bema, the very same word used to describe the place where the Olympic judges gave out the prizes. If we have disciplined ourselves to obey the rules, we can compete to receive a prize on that day. Don’t tolerate sin, confess it and break free of the shackles that hold you back or potentially disqualify you.

 

So we need dissatisfaction, devotion, direction, determination and discipline. So let’s get down to brass tacks… I want to suggest 4 things you can commit to right now so that this decade becomes the greatest decade of your life for Jesus…

 

1.      COMMIT TO LOVING

 

John 13:35 (ESV Strong’s)

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

We need to commit to loving one another, that’s how people recognise Christ in us. It’s our superpower. Not our judgement, not our knowledge, but by how we love each other. So at the start of this year and decade, let’s commit to loving one another.

 

Lord, I commit to loving my brothers and sisters, and running to win.

 

2.      COMMIT TO GIVING

 

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)

whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

Now this applies to money, but it also applies to time and devotion. What you sow you reap, usually more than you sow and later than you sow. If you sow discord, if you sow unforgiveness, anger, hurt, disunity, guess  what you reap.

 

Sow to the wind, reap a whirlwind.

 

If you sow love, if you give money, time or devotion, you will reap that. It’s a principle. So this year, let’s commit to giving of ourselves, our time, our money and our heart to the Lord and each other.

 

Lord, I commit to giving of my money, time and talent this year, and running to win.

 

3.      COMMIT TO SERVING

 

A practical extension of giving is to commit to serving. Why not put your hand up for something in church? Can you give some time to be a part of the catering team, carpark, kids, prayer, worship, pastoral care?

 

1 Peter 4:10 (ESV Strong’s)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

 

Every one of you has a gift, so this New Year, come on step up and join us serving Jesus here at Ignite and let’s start running to win.

 

Lord, I commit to serving You in this place.

 

4.      COMMIT TO SEEKING

 

You can commit to loving, giving and serving, but I challenge you to number one, this one thing I do, commit to seeking God! Everything else you desire in your life can happen when you put Jesus first.

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong’s)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

And here is a practical way to do it… Join us in the Bible Reading Plan right now.

 

Lord, I commit to reading Your Word daily, and running to win.

New Horizons in 2019

New horizons are what we face in 2019, and I think with a New year it is appropriate to ask the question, “Where are we going?”

Where are you headed in your personal life, your family, your work, and where are we headed as a church, as a community of believers here at Ignite? Certainly at the end of last year we faced difficulties, especially in the area of coping with the numbers coming to church here. So we need to put things in place both for the short term and also the long term.

As I prayed into this over the summer, the Lord spoke a phrase to me that has lit up my life… New Horizons. I believe God has new horizons for us to move into this year. New for me, new for you and new for this church… I’m here for the long term, to see God transform Ignite into the church He wants. Interestingly, I also after writing this learned that the name given to the NASA space probe that has just sent back images from the furthest distance anything manmade has ever travelled is also called “New Horizons.”

 

FORGET THE FORMER THINGS

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong’s)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

As people, it is very tempting to dwell on the past. In 2019, nostalgia is alive and well! We always talk about the good old days, but I was there for many of them, and they just weren’t that good! Simpler perhaps, less pace and pressure maybe, but without all of the mod cons we associate with good living today, such as mobile phones and the Internet.

 

Many of you will fondly remember the days of black and white TV, pot bellied stoves and cars with carburettors you could service yourself, but you conveniently overlook 38 degree days without aircon, washing clothes by hand and outhouse toilets.

 

You see, we always look back with rose coloured glasses, seeing the good, and many times blocking out the bad. We look back with fondness and thankfulness, as we should, while often forgetting the tough times. And that’s fine… Look at the many times New Testament Christians looked back on Jewish history in Acts, being reminded of the great things God has done in the past.

 

When I became pastor of this church 3 years ago, with the church facing overwhelming financial obligations, I told the Lord that I was not prepared to oversee an average church. We faced unbelievable hurdles, incredible new horizons, and had to raise a quarter of a million dollars in 9 months to save this church and God did it! This church is nearly 4 times the size of the one I stepped up to lead, but this is not the end, God is taking us together on a wonderful journey as we serve and love Him, and our community. Ignite is not just my story, it’s your story, so rather than watch it happen, I want to invite you to be a part of the great things God is about to do here at Ignite in 2019.

 

Look at how the church has grown, how leaders have been trained and raised up, how the community has been touched, how the Word of God has been proclaimed, and all of this in some difficult and trying times!

 

But if we rest on our laurels, we are wearing them in the wrong place. In 2018, I personally and our church generally received several awards and honours, but if I rest on those and fail to build on those, then we will never be raised to what God wants us to be. No, church, it’s hats of to the past, but coats off to the future! Forget the former things and let’s shoot for the stars!

 

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

 

What future? What is it that the Lord has put there for us? Where are we going? And who with?

 

Proverbs 29:18 (ESV Strong’s)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

 

First let me say that, whatever happens, we need to stick together. I know of so many powerful, committed Christians who, for completely valid and justified reasons, become dissociated or dislocated from church. I have had dislocating shoulders, and I can tell you the pain of a dislocation is extreme.

 

Many believers here on the Coast experience this pain of being dislocated from church, and Ignite has a vision to be a safe haven for those kinds of folk, providing a base where they can rebuild their spiritual lives and their service for the Lord safely, reequipping and reenergising them to become all they can be in Christ!

 

So whatever we face , let’s covenant to face it together, and to let nothing deflect us from unity and truth. In a world that is ridiculously quick to be offended (eg: Facebook world), let’s be slow in being offended!

 

So where we going? If I have no idea where I am going, even a GPS cannot get me there! In the future, I see us moving to a new, larger premises with more car parks and more toilets. I see a strong, stable Ignite Centre from which to grow, with hundreds of people meeting every week and many growing ministries that will impact nations.

 

Don’t accept the lie that if the church grows we will lose community. Already I know God has created a unique environment and atmosphere here at Ignite, one based on love and unity, and as we grow, we need to not lose this but rather amplify it! If we stand in unity and love as we have been doing, 2 services, a change of venue, even differences of doctrine should not compromise community!

 

But I also see beyond this, to a time where we can plant dozens of churches in communities across the Coast and beyond. I see leaders trained and raised up to serve. I see whole communities won to Christ by our faithful witness in their midst. Together we can do more for Christ and reach new horizons in 2019!

 

REACHING FOR NEW HORIZONS

 

So what does God have for us in this New Year?  New horizons, and I believe that, like the people of Israel entering the

Promised Land, we have new, fresh and glorious horizons and opportunities before us, and we should be excited, not fearful about coming into 2019.

 

Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV Strong’s)

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

 

So how do we move towards these new horizons and face these new challenges? How do we not only preserve but build upon the great things God has done here at Ignite? Here are 7 ways we can move ahead towards our destiny as a church.  We do it by…

 

1.      BEING A CHURCH

 

Matthew 16:18 (ESV Strong’s)

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

The church is God’s solution to a dying world. Church is not Plan B, it is God’s plan to reach a world heading to destruction. But mankind has taken God’s plan to reach the world and turned it into institutions, into lovely buildings, into great performances with lights and smoke and theatre. At the end of the day, we have to be a church!

 

Every move of God comes in 4 parts, a man, a movement, a machine and a monument. It starts with a man, a John Wesley, a William Booth, a Brian Houston, a passionate, anointed man of God. In time he creates around him a movement, full of the same passion and drive, taking the world for Jesus. But over time this wanes, and the structure put in place to sustain the movement becomes a religious machine. Things look the same on the outside, but people are not as passionate. Then finally, after years of being a machine, the movement becomes a monument to past greatness, as we see in many of the established denominations.

 

We must never lose sight of the fact that we are the church, and we are God’s solution to the world’s problems, so let’s face 2019 as what we are called to be… not machine or a monument, not an institution, not an organisation, not a religion or a political party or a charity… we are the church, God’s solution, facing new horizons together.

 

2.      BEING A COMMUNITY

 

Church is not a building, it is not an institution, it is you and I… Church is a community, a family, the body of Christ!

 

1 Peter 2:5 (ESV Strong’s)

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

 

God has established a unique and wonderful spiritual family here, living stones in a spiritual house, where people love and care in a genuine way for each other. Many people say, please don’t grow, we like a little church. But listen, growth does not mean we have to lose what this church is built on!

 

As any institution especially churches grow, structure must be put in place to enhance that growth. I planted some tomatoes, and they grew all over the ground, and before long the fruit was rotting and going bad. When I built a trellis, the plant grew up this structure and the fruit was preserved, and multiplied.

 

Structure in church is only valid if it supports the genuine, organic growth of community. Problem is, if structure successfully supports healthy growth, we then glorify the structure, not the true growth.

 

Our strength is in our oneness, our community of love and support. Every one of us has to guard this as we face new horizons, even if we change the structure, like having 2 services or a new building.

 

3.      BEING SERVANTS

 

Mark 10:43-45 (ESV Strong’s)

But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

A servant heart must be the hallmark of Ignite Church. This does not mean that as a pastor I am yours to command, but it does mean that all of our leadership, from the pastor down, serves selflessly and humbly. I am one man, and I work in my secular professions 4 days a week, so I cannot do everything for you.

 

Neither should I! We have teams of humble servants who can care for you better than I can. I know many of you have dreams of ministering, doing something great for the Lord, and if that’s you, let me tell you that you’re in the right place.  If you want to grow into your ministry, any ministry, in this church or beyond, then the fastest way is to serve someone else’s ministry. If you come to Ignite and serve with all your heart, God can and will raise a mighty ministry in and through your life, and you will rejoice in the new horizons before you in ministry.

 

4.      BEING A VOICE

 

We live in an age of tremendous moral decline, and I for one and this church will not float idly by into the moral abyss we call 21st century Australia! In 2019, despite already being criticised by some, I will not stop proclaiming God’s righteousness to this nation. Now more than ever, we need to be the prophetic voice of God to this community and this nation. I’m not here to keep the peace, I’m here to proclaim the truth!

 

Romans 1:16-17 (ESV Strong’s)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew ofirst and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

 

In this coming year. I will not back down from what I believe is God’s truth and righteousness, even if I am a voice crying in the wilderness. Despite laws our leaders pass, I will proclaim God’s Biblical standards without apology, even if others attack me. I do not have a political agenda, but I have a moral and a spiritual agenda, and I am not ashamed to proclaim these truths, the truths of God’s Word, even in the face of opposition, from outside the church or even from within. New horizons mean that this church must continue to proclaim God’s truths, not in condemnation and legalism, but with love and conviction.

 

We must all continue to be a voice to our sick, wayward nation that is heading towards destruction! It was a bush on fire that turned Moses aside, and it will be a church ignited and in fire that will turn a nation aside, that’s heading to hellfire!

 

5.      BEING IN UNITY

 

Unity is a cornerstone of Ignite Church. Paul writes,

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong’s)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

 

I have a zero tolerance for disunity at Ignite. Now understand, that doesn’t mean You cannot disagree with me, because unity does not mean we agree on everything, but it means we can disagree, agreeably.

 

A Canadian farmer lost his 2 year old boy in his corn field, and called all the men from neighbouring farms to help him search. He told the men to spread out to try and find the boy, but be careful not to trample the corn which was ready for harvesting. As the temperature plummeted to below zero and after fruitless searching, the farmer told the men to join hands and trample through the ripe grain, even if it meant destroying the crop. The soon found the boy, curled up in a hollow, dead from hyperthermia. The farmer turned to the men and said, “gentlemen, we should have joined hands sooner.”

 

Now is the time to join hands in unity, even if it means you don’t get your own way. If you love anything, your opinion, your beliefs, your doctrine, or your preference more than you love people, we will have disunity. If you love people more than your own desires, we have unity.

 

I appreciate that most people here do not let doctrine divide us. If it is not a core doctrine, if it is not a salvation issue, we can hold different opinions and still be in unity. Our standard must be the Word of God. But we must be careful to never hold any interpretation of God’s Word so tightly it is at the expense of unity. Whether it is tongues, baptism, the style of music, communion, the building, the way things are done, never love these more than your brother.

 

John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong’s)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

The world will know we are His by our love for one another, not by how vehemently we hold to certain doctrines or fight one another. If it is not about God’s righteousness or salvation, as Paul says in Romans 12:10, prefer one another! Let’s put one another first as we look to new horizons!

 

6.      BEING FOCUSSED ON JESUS

 

At a recent charity event I met Australian cycling legend and Olympic gold medalist Anna Mears. She told us she invested more than 70 hours a week for 4 years, training to win a race that takes 10 seconds. Now that’s focus!

 

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

 

This year, we don’t look backwards at great achievements, as great as they have been, but we look forward at Jesus and His new, fresh goals for us. You cannot drive a car looking in the rear view mirror, so this year we must look ahead and  keep our eyes focussed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

 

Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV Strong’s)

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

So we will focus on Jesus and His Word, proclaiming that. We will not veer to one side, we will not focus on what other churches may emphasise. You will not find me chasing political agendas, chasing signs and wonders, chasing gifts, finances, demons or culture, all of which is fine, but it’s not Ignite!  We must keep the main thing the main thing and stay focussed on Jesus and the Word of God.

 

7.      BEING FRUITFUL

 

So many believers, and many churches also, are not effective in reaching others for Christ. I know our emphasis here at Ignite is providing a church home or unity, love and nurture for those who dream of being great for God, a home where dislocated Christians can send down deep roots and grow and thrive once again.

 

But must always be effective in reaching our people for Christ, and we must pray and believe for fruit. Let’s not just say it, let’s do it, but not by programs and techniques, but rather by people who are so inspired, so empowered, so ignited and on fire for Jesus that fruit just follows! As Jesus said,

 

John 15:4-5 (ESV Strong’s)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Listen we can have a nice church, nice programs, nice groups and nice people, but the true measure of our church is our fruit… quantity and quality! People ask me if I want to see signs and wonders here, and I answer yes. But I don’t want gold dust, angel feathers and crazy excesses, the signs I am looking for are God changing lives, healing people, restoring relationships, filling people with power to live holy lives and seeing people saved. They are the signs I seek!

 

Maturity in the life of a Christian is hard to measure and quantify, but it is easy to see. I think we all agree that, whatever you believe the initial sign is, the true measure of being filled with the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit. Abide in Jesus and you bear fruit, so our emphasis needs to be abiding in Him!

 

THE WAY AHEAD… ARE YOU FULLY COMMITTED?

 

This year is a year of New Horizons, and the challenging thing about the horizon is that the closer you get to it, the further away it seems… but we must never stop moving ahead.

 

This year I believe God is going to lead us on to incredible success in the things that really matter. If we are obedient, if we abide in Him. As Jesus said,

 

John 15:16 (ESV Strong’s)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

 

That’s a great challenge, but according to that verse, we can ask and if we ask in His name, which is not just a string of words but it means ask according to His will, if we abide in Him and

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong’s)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

This year, our destiny stands before us, and together, we have the greatest opportunity to see Ignite Christian Church become what God has destined us to be!  If we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, if we do not compromise and lose focus, if we covenant to obey the Word of God, then He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

THE EYES OF THE LORD

 

Today, at the start of 2019, the Spirit of God is looking across this auditorium. He is ready to lead us on to new horizons, He is ready to build a church that impacts this and other nations, but the question is, are you in or out? Do you want to be a part of what God is doing, or not?  His eyes are looking for those who will follow Him, follow Him towards new horizons He has prepared for us.

 

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV-WS)

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

 

His eyes range across this room this morning, and I simply ask the question, are you one of those whose hearts are fully committed to serving Jesus in 2019? If you want to make a difference in this world, if you have a dream in God, we can see it happen together.

 

Are you the person who will say “Choose me, Lord?” Or can you not be bothered and just want to attend church? Will you join me in saying, “Lord I will serve you, no matter the call, no matter the cost, no matter the commitment”?

 

Bill Borden was heir to a fortune, a star college athlete, good-looking, and committed to Christ. As a student, he heard a call to reach Muslims, and following graduation he announced he was giving his immense inheritance to the cause of world missions. He joined the China Inland Mission, but his widowed mother wondered if Bill had done the right thing, giving up fortune and homeland. Bill wrote, “In the quiet of my room that night, worn and weary and sad, I fell asleep asking myself again and again, ‘Is it, after all, worthwhile?’ In the morning as I awoke, a still small voice was speaking in my heart, answering: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only beloved son.… ’ ”

 

Bill Borden arrived in Egypt, but immediately contracted spinal meningitis. He was dead in two weeks, but he left a final message on paper stuffed under his pillow: “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”

 

The story of his sacrifice was retold in newspapers across America and the publication of his biography resulted in a hundreds of young people offering themselves as living sacrifices for the Lord of the harvest. His was the shortest but most powerful mission experience ever!

 

As we face new horizons in 2019, we can either stay the same, stay safe, sta-tus quo, or we can step up and change the world.  I’m asking you to stand with me today and into this year, to go beyond being a spectator, an attender or even a member.  Are you content with the blessings we already have? Or will you say with Bill Borden, and with me, “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”

 

Let me offer a tangible call to commitment as we face new horizons… will you join me this year in reading the Bible every day with our me Bible Reading Plan?

The Death of Religion

The death of religion seems a strange topic to preach about in church, but I sense that over the last year or so we are seeing in our own nation the slow, painful death of institutionalised church.

With the plebiscite last year, and the numerous Church scandals involving priests, etc. never before has conventional Church seemed so irrelevant to and out of touch with our people. Aussies are not impressed by fine buildings, bells and smells, rituals or nice words. So religion as such is losing its power in society, but interestingly, this is not the first but the latest of many times when religion has lost relevancy and power.

Aussies have never warmed to institutionalised Church , partially because as Aussies were a bunch of rebels. Australians are unconventional, and often antiestablishment… we don’t like rules, we don’t like fake and we really respond the best to genuineness, openness and fairness.

 

And as Australians we value mateship above all else… and what is mateship? It is relationship, on a deep level.

 

CHOOSING RELIGION OVER RELATIONSHIP

 

God has always been about relationship. In the Garden of Eden, we find the Lord walking in fellowship with man and woman.  When sin entered the world, man chose sin and thereby rejected relationship with God, causing physical death and even eternal death to take root in man.

 

Relationship is about love, it’s about commitment, it’s about respect. Religion is a tricky customer, because it looks on the surface like it is about those things, but it isn’t… it is actually about making us feel like we are acceptable. Look around at all of the world’s great religions and you will see people doing things to gain salvation. Religion is man reaching out to God, but Christianity is God in the person of Jesus Christ reaching down to man. Christianity should be a relationship, not a religion.

 

Back in Exodus at Mt Sinai, the people I Israel had the opportunity to fellowship with God, but they were afraid…

 

Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV Strong’s)

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

 

At that point people chose rules over relationship, laws over love, fearfulness over fellowship. They thought it’s better to just follow a series of rules or rituals rather that actually converse with, and be responsible to, their awesome, mighty, overwhelming God. Man has been doing it ever since!

 

RELIGION AND RELATIONSHIP

 

Religion is what you do over and over… Religion is what you do continuously… Religion is your rituals, your customs, your habitual activities… We seem to like it…

 

Religion is that which you do habitually… But relationship is something altogether different…

 

Relationship is a connection, an association between you and someone else… Relationship is the kinship that exists between you and someone else… Relationship is the camaraderie/ companionship that exists between you and those that you are close to…

 

And in order to have relationship, there must first be fellowship…. To connect with God, we need more than just religion; more than just a habit… we need a relationship with God…!

 

Philippians 3:8 (ESV Strong’s)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

 

Paul is saying everything, every single thing, is like rubbish, or even dung compared to what? Compared to knowing Christ. Paul clearly lays it out here, it’s about knowing Jesus.

 

So as believers we need to commit to relationship over regulations, fellowship over fearfulness and love over legalism. Think about it.. You can be obedient to someone without loving or being close to them, but if you genuinely adore someone, you are obedient automatically because you want to please them and bring them joy!

 

LEGALISM: BEWARE THE POWER OF RULES

 

In one of life’s great paradoxes, rules and regulations have a way of choking genuine obedience. The reason behind this is that outwardly rules may bring what appears to be obedience, but it reaches a point where obedience is often grudging because. People being people, we cannot legislate to change the heart. Governments find this… they create swathes of rules governing our behaviour, but government cannot change the underlying attitudes of the heart.

 

In 1936 Australia had 88 pages of income tax laws. By 2008, we had 5743 pages, and employed 20,000 people to implement them… the ATO is the 2nd largest government agency!

 

Even in church, heartfelt decisions for Christ are soon replaced by man made rules if we are not on our guard against them.

 

Every great move of God throughout history has gone through an identifiable evolution…

 

A Man: It starts with one man and a God given, God driven dream… Martin Luther, John Wesley, William Booth.

 

A Movement: It continues with Holy Spirit inspired leadership, creating a powerful, God led movement… Protestantism, Methodists, the Salvation Army, ACC

 

A Machine: After a while, a generation or two, the movement gets organised into a machine, still looking the same to outsiders, but it degrades to people following rules and regulations.

 

A Monument: Today many moves of God lack power and are just monuments to past glories!

 

Choosing rules over relationship kills relationship, brings an outward conformity without true life change or obedience in the heart. Even the chosen people of God faced this, starting with that choice at Sinai and chose to follow rules, prompting Isaiah and later Jesus to say,

 

Isaiah 29:13 (ESV Strong’s)

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips,

while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,

 

Even in church, we look obedient, we give lip service to God, but our hearts are often far from Him. And in the Church, the telltale sign of this is when we elevate rules above relationship, laws above love and look obedient outwardly when secretly our love is cold and lifeless. Let’s have a look at legalism in the church, and discover why legalism is religion without relationship…

 

1.      LEGALISM MASQUERADES AS OBEDIENCE

 

Legalism is the obedience of rules above relationship, and laws above love. And we Christian are ripe for the picking… we have a history of legalism in the church, even today, even here at Ignite!

 

All world religions are legalistic… they consist of a series of rules that believers must obey. Christianity, at least how it looks to most Aussies from the outside, seems no exception.  We should be, though, because the church should display God’s love not legalism, yet legalistic Christians actually believe that they are being obedient. They are being swindled by legalism.

 

As Christians, we have beliefs about certain behaviours, ideas and doctrines. It is good that we have opinions, but I believe we sin when we elevate those opinions above our love for one another. And don’t think it is only other churches and denominations, because folks we can be as legalistic as the next believer. Paula wrote to a Church struggling with legalism in Colossae…

 

Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV Strong’s)

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

 

Paul’s says these rules look like real religion, but they actually do nothing about controlling the flesh. In our church life, getting drunk, swearing, and sex outside of marriage are clearly wrong. However, just because you don’t get drunk, swear or sleep around, it does not mean you are right with God. You look pious, but inside or behind closed doors you might be struggling with sin and far from God.

 

My friend in Mayalsia told me last week, “The older I get, the less judgemental I become.” Friends, we need to not be judging one another, because…

 

Romans 2:1 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

 

This does not mean we compromise and tolerate. I can disagree with you, I can even tell you so, but still love you unconditionally. Again, when we love what we think or believe more than we love another person. We become judgemental and legalistic, and we do not demonstrate God’s love!

 

2.      LEGALISM CENTRES ON MAN MADE RULES

 

God gave His people rules for living. We call them the 10 Commandments, but Jesus summarised them into just 2 commandments…

 

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV Strong’s)

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

 

The original written Jewish law is called the Torah, and it is the first 5 books of the Bible, However, to this has since been added the Talmud, which scholar John Phillips describes as “vast accumulations of tradition encrusted with enormous deposits of human interpretation. The Torah itself has been largely superseded in Judaism by the Talmud.” The five books of the Torah can be written out in 350 pages, and summarised to two great commandments. The Talmud takes up 523 books printed in 22 volumes.” By the time of Christ these man made laws had to a large degree eclipse the written laws of the Bible.

 

And even today, we have laws that are cultural or controlling but not Biblical. In my parent’s day, dancing was considered a sin, as was women wearing makeup or shorts and even going to the movies. We see clearly today that these are based on man made rules devised to control young people, not on a relationship with God.

 

Now some Biblical principles need to be applied to modern society, but we must be careful to make sure the Biblical principle is faithfully applied. You might say, “Everyone lives together these days, so God now allows it.” However I think it is clear that doing so flies in the face of the Bible’s teaching on sex outside of marriage. You might say, “ Movies aren’t condemned by the Bible, but I believe any movie promoting non Biblical principles like demonic horror movies and promiscuous sex clearly violate God’s will for us.

 

 

3.      LEGALISM IS ELITIST

 

Legalism is a man made effort to feel ok with God. It is raising to the position of Biblical mandate rules God never intended. It is taking our traditions and preferences and imposing them on others as an act of spiritual superiority the Bible never intended.

 

Legalism might make you feel pious and godly, but it is divisive, destructive, seductive and deceptive. It is destructive because it causes death instead of life, seductive because it satisfies the flesh and makes you look towards yourself and your own power instead of God, and deceptive because it makes you feel spiritually elite when you are actually a slave to man made rules!

 

Legalism kills life in the Spirit, and is focussed on man made, external rules. It often takes the form of “I don’t/you don’t”… perhaps you recognise these?

 

I don’t smoke, I don’t dance, I don’t swear, I don’t do drugs, I don’t sleep around, or

You don’t use the right Bible translation, You don’t worship the right way, You don’t tithe properly, You don’t pray enough, You don’t hear God like I do, You don’t, You don’t, You don’t!

 

Matthew 23:2-4 (ESV Strong’s)

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

 

The religious leaders used their thousands of man made rules to control others and make themselves superior. They made them heavy burdens, when all people need to do to please God is love Him and love others!

 

We are not immune. I’ve had people leave our church because we use rice cracker for communion, because we changed our name and because we do not do certain things in church. Legalism, pure and simple!

 

4.      LEGALISM DOES NOT WIN PEOPLE’S HEARTS

 

Legalism and rules might cause compliance, but they do not win people’s hearts. Kids brought up in harsh religious environments often rebel later on, because there was no love, just rules. They confirmed, but they did not transform!

 

Ephesians 6:4 (ESV Strong’s)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

 

In Hebrew discipline and instruction also means nurture and exhortation. That’s how we should lead, with nurture and encouragement. Many churches tend towards legalism and control, but our leadership here does not… we want to lead as Jesus directed…

 

Mark 10:42-44 (ESV Strong’s)

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

 

Without being soft or tolerant on important issues, we need to love even those we disagree with. We must be completely intolerant of ungodly ideas, but completely tolerant of people.

 

THE CURE FOR LEGALISM

 

Legalism, strict adherence to and control of people using man made rules, is rampant in the Church in Australia, and this in part is why Aussies have little time for legalistic, organised religion.  We think if we are harsh on certain issues we are being a good witness, but while we must be uncompromising on the truths of the Bible, even when we are uncompromising we need to be so with love.  We have to learn to hate the sin but love the sinner. So how can we cure legalism?

 

1.      REALISE OUR PREFERENCES ARE NOT GOD’S LAWS

 

God’s laws stand forever, and they are not there to ruin our fun but to protect our lives.

 

Matthew 5:18 (ESV Strong’s)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

 

God’s laws about anger can save relationships. God’s laws about honesty can save your business. God’s laws concerning sex outside marriage can protect you from disease or unplanned pregnancy.

 

But legalism occurs most often when we elevate our preferences or opinions above God’s opinions. In the church, issues like tongues, tithing, dancing, movies and drinking to name a few, have been touted as God’s will but really are at best our opinion or interpretation of God’s will, and at worst our opinion of what others should and shouldn’t do.

 

The first cure for legalism is to sort out what God actually requires, and not what we want to see happen. We need to absolutely committed to obeying God’s law as revealed in His Word, and less judgemental about how others obey our opinions!

 

2.      BE INTOLERANT OF IDEAS, BUT TOLERANT OF PEOPLE

 

Many Christians have fallen for the mantra of our society, that we must be tolerant to all, especially gays and transgenders. Whole churches are busy tolerating things that the Bible clearly says are sin.

 

I believe we must be completely intolerant of ideas that contradict God’s clear Word and direction. I cannot and will not call a gay union a marriage, and I don’t care what my government says. I refuse to look at the Bible through society, but insist on looking at society through the Bible. The first one changes every month or so, and the second changes not!

 

However, while we must be completely intolerant to ideas that go against God’s law, we must be completely tolerant towards people, even those attacking us, even those who promote those ideas.

 

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV Strong’s)

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

 

Making our defence is about being intolerant of ideas that contradict the Word of God, but gentleness and respect are about tolerating the person. We cannot win people to Christ by arguing with them, insulting them, disrespecting them or rejecting them. You mustn’t agree with them, and you may need to tell them so to their face, but in the name of Jesus, don’t reject them, love them! Hearts are won by love, not by elitist rejection and arguments.

 

3.      GUARD YOUR HEART

 

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV Strong’s)

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

 

The third cure for legalism is guarding your heart. Your heart is constantly under attack, but you need to realise that everything you believe, speak and do comes from your heart. It is the wellspring of your life. If you block this spring, life downstream starves to death. If you poison your heart, if you fill it with fear, envy, prejudice, depravity or anything outside of God, you poison the whole of your life. So how do we guard the wellspring of our life, our heart?

 

Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong’s)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

You can escape legalism by filling your mind and hence your heart with good and God things. This is why coming to church is essential, reading the Bible every day is mandatory, interacting with believers, reading good books, listening to worship songs, all of these Serb to guard your heart.

 

4.      BE OBEDIENT

 

When Saul was asked to wipe out a city, and he kept the best livestock for himself, Samuel caught him red handed. Saul, in an effort to save the situation and escape the just punishment that was heading his way, claimed that  he had only kept the best of the livestock in order to sacrifice them. But Samuel said,

 

1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV Strong’s)

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

 

Listen, God does not want your religious duties, He wants your heart! For centuries, man has been trying to obey rules to please God so God will bless him and give him what he wants. But all along, God wanted man’s heart, not the legalistic following of rules. To be obedient is better than our religious, legalistic sacrifice, and to listen is better than whatever else we can offer. Listen and obey, it’s that simple!

 

5.      FALL IN LOVE WITH HIM

 

Our obedience should not be motivated by fear of God zapping us, or cursing us in some way.

 

1 John 4:18 (ESV Strong’s)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

 

Falling in love with Jesus, deeper and deeper every day, that’s the key to overcoming legalism and fear in our lives. God doesn’t want your lifeless legalism, He doesn’t want your ornery obedience, He doesn’t want your religious rule following, He wants your heart, He wants your love!

 

And when you love Him, obedience follows as night follows day. I obey Jesus, not because I’m forced to, not because I’m fearful of what might happen if I don’t, but because I love Him and I want to please Him more than anything else in the world! I obey Jesus and serve Him because I love Him, but I cannot truly love Him whom I do not know. So to know Him is to love Him.

 

2 John 1:6 (ESV Strong’s)

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

 

THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY

 

In 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul lays out rules for conducting orderly church services and spiritual gifts like tongues and prophecy. But between the two is the great chapter on love, which starts like this…

 

1 Corinthians 12:31 (ESV Strong’s)

But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

 

Love, brothers and sisters, not legalism, not rules, not religion, not judgement, love, Paul says, is the higher, the more excellent way. Here at Ignite we preach the Word of God without compromise, we seek the will of God unswervingly and we refuse to shy away from what God says is His truth and His standard. But let us always do this in love, because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!

 

Unity is the church is paramount, and any time you elevate your preferences and your opinions above love for someone else, I believe you are in sin!

 

Today Church, I am calling you to leave legalism and learn love. I’m asking you to rediscover your first love, the love that sometimes gets lost in the repetition of religious behaviour. Today I am asking you to pledge that you will love and serve Jesus, not your own desires and not a Church or religious denomination. And today I am asking you to make a commitment with me that we will love each other more than we will love getting our own way or fighting for our own opinion. I’m calling you today to a higher calling, a more excellent way, to the path of unity. If we are ever to win others to Christ, we must stand together in unity.

 

If you don’t know Jesus, it’s time to give Him your heart.

Total Surrender

Total surrender is the best way to face the New Year.  Each New Year, we wonder what is in store for us. Is this going to be a good year, or a tough one? Am I going to go ahead with the potential in my life, or fall away? Is it going to be the same as last year and the year before?

I believe that this is a pivotal year for Ignite Christian Church, and for each of you personally. I was recently criticised by a visitor for preaching too hard on righteousness, but I make no apology for this. I’m not here to play games or tickle ears, I’m here to encourage but also to challenge you. My vision for you is not to see you cruise through life and just exist, rather it is to see you thrive in the things of God and to inspire you in 2018 to become all that God has destined you to be.

I have sought the Lord asking for a key verse for this year, and I believe He has given us

 

Matthew 5:16 (ESV Strong’s)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

In 2018, Ignite Church is the light on a hill, and we are called to shine boldly and brightly in this dark world. We are called to total surrender!  Another verse our leadership have received several times is this one…

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong’s)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

So it is time to stop looking back, however good, however tough, and start looking ahead to what the Lord has destined for us!

 

As we face this New Year, what  can make a difference in Ignite and also in us as individuals?

 

GETTING INTIMATE WITH GOD

 

One of our greatest needs as human beings is to know that we are loved. Each one of us here has to feel certain, deep down in our hearts, that someone loves us, cares for us, and has our best interests at heart.

 

The need to be loved is at the centre of most human relationships.  Men and women getting married, having families, having affairs, giving presents at Christmas, bringing up children, playing sport, joining clubs, joining Church, signing up to RSVP… all of us want to be loved in some way. And all of us need to know that somebody loves us.

 

That is how God designed us. He wants us to know that He loves each and every one of us with a passionate intensity too deep for words.

 

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV Strong’s)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

 

God created human beings with fellowship in mind—first with Himself and then with others. But we cannot fully love one another until we have ourselves experienced the love of God. We experience His love when we willingly surrender to His call to be our Saviour, Lord, and Friend.

 

2018 is the year to get intimate with God.  It is the year to totally surrender to Him!

 

ARE YOU AS SPIRITUALLY DEAF?

 

The fact is, many of us cannot hear God with any degree of accuracy or confidence. Lots of Christians say, “God told me this or that,” but how can they know? Very often Christians preface what is actually their opinion with the phrase, “God told me…” because they know that we can have no come back if it were true. That’s not often God, that’s often manipulation!

 

Of all the people who say, “God told me to tell you this” over the past year, barely a handful would genuinely be God.  Many good people tell me that they are never sure if the Lord is speaking to them, if at all.

 

So this year, how can you foster an attitude and a lifestyle that enables the Lord to speak to you intimately as He promised He will? Do you have to be a crazy nutcase to hear God, and is the only other alternative being as spiritually deaf as a post?

 

Of course not! Hearing God should be a natural part of every Christian’s relationship with the Lord when you offer Him total surrender. You shouldn’t be weird or over the top strange to have to hear God, and my experience is that most of the odd people are not really hearing God clearly anyway.

 

But neither should you be spiritually hard of hearing. Religious people in church, even back in Jesus’ day, never had a great track record of listening to God, that why Jesus quoted Isaiah in saying,

Matthew 13:14-15 (ESV Strong’s)

Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Now, I want to give you one word that can transform your year. One word that will open your eyes to what God wants you to see, one word that will open your spiritual ears to hear Him. One word that, if you truly embraced it and acted upon it, will take the life that you live right now and morph it into the life you’ve dreamed of, the powerful, Spirit filled life your Father has destined you to live…

 

THE WORD IS SURRENDER, TOTAL SURRENDER

 

Charles Stanley writes about total surrender, “Our intimacy with God determines the impact of our lives.”

 

Total surrender is defined as, “To yield to the power, control or possession of another.” (Miriam Webster’s Dictionary)

Romans 12:1 (ESV Strong’s)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The Greek word for present is paristemi which means to yield or surrender.

 

When I think of total surrender, I always think of soldiers with their hands above their heads, yielding to the power of their conquerors. Now, when a soldier surrenders there is much fear. They have been fighting against the enemy, killing and destroying, and so to yield or surrender means they place their life into their enemy’s control, with no guarantees of survival or humane treatment. They take a chance, and their life hangs in the balance.

 

But not so when we surrender to Christ. We yield to Christ with the knowledge that He will never leave nor forsake us.

Psalms 9:10 (ESV Strong’s)

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

There are at least three reasons God seeks our total surrender:

 

1.      GOD DESIRES OUR FELLOWSHIP

 

God loves us and desires our fellowship and worship. If we hold something back from God, if we refuse to draw close to Him by surrendering our lives to Him, we cannot know Him completely or fully experience His love.

James 4:7-8 (ESV Strong’s)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

When we totally surrender to Him, when we yield our lives to Him, we get all of Him. When we decide to move close to the Lord, when we start to seek Him with all our hearts, He moves closer to us.

 

2.      GOD DESIRES OUR SERVICE

 

God wants our service for Him to be effective and fruitful.

 

The more we know and love Jesus, the more effective our service will be, and the more He will grow our ministry. The closer we draw to God, the more impact our lives will have. The more energetically we nurture our relationship with the Lord, the greater the positive mark we will leave behind.

Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV Strong’s)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

 

Total surrender to God means more effective service, and this is what I mean by surrendering to God grows your ministry.

 

3.      GOD DESIRES TO BLESS US

 

God waits for the freedom to bless us.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong’s)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

Note verse 13, seeking God with all your heart. This is total surrender to Him.

 

God is omnipotent, He is all powerful and can do anything, but He will not violate His own principles. He draws us to Himself so we can experience His love and forgiveness. He asks for our willing surrender so that He can give us the best blessings He has to offer.

 

We are sometimes like a young child watching TV. Their parent comes and wants to take them to the zoo, but they resist because they are content just watching TV, not knowing the wonderful experience awaiting them!

 

WHY WE RESIST TOTAL SURRENDER

 

It is in your interests to surrender to God today at the start of this year! But we resist, don’t we? Why do we want to join the resistance instead of offering total surrender to someone whose expressed desire is to bless us not to harm us?

 

With all the blessings God has clearly in mind for us, why does anyone resist surrendering to God?

 

1.      PRIDE

 

Pride is the key reason most people resist surrender.

 

I remember Kira learning to tie her shoelaces, saying, “I do it mine self” and making us all late!

 

People think they know better than God and that they can handle their lives better than He can, so they keep Him at a distance.  Which is ironic, given the mess most of our lives finish up in, isn’t it?

Proverbs 18:12 (ESV Strong’s)

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty (prideful), but humility comes before honor.

God wants us to put our trust in him.

We insult God when we trust in our own resources, or anything else, to deliver us from our problems. When we surrender our lives to God, we become his own chosen ones. He promises to hear us when we call out to him.

 

2.      FEAR

 

Others do not surrender because they fear what God will do (or not do) for them. They think that if they give God control, He’ll make them do exactly what will make them most miserable.

 

Many apparently can trust God to give them heaven, but cannot trust Him enough to give them heaven on earth in a life of fulfilment and joy.

 

 

Fear of the Lord is a great thing. Fear of the future is not. Can your trust in God exceed your fear for the future?

Proverbs 29:25 (ESV Strong’s)

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

 

We often treat God like a man, thinking He is out to punish us, or make us suffer, or make us do things we hate just to show us who is boss. God is not like that, so stop tarring Him with the same brush as you would a leader, pastor or politician.

John 14:27 (ESV Strong’s)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

 

3.      UNBELIEF

 

Still others refuse to surrender to Christ because they believe Satan’s lie, which tells them that God is judgmental and will punish them for their mistakes.

 

Jesus says this about Satan…

John 8:44 (ESV Strong’s)

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

 

Don’t let your pride, fear or unbelief stop you from fully surrendering to the Lord

 

IT’S TIME TO SURRENDER

 

God always has our best in mind. He will refuse us no good thing when we gladly submit to His will. He tells us, “‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope”’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

Romans 8:31-32 (ESV Strong’s)

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

 

When we fully surrender to Him, He will withhold no good thing. Of course, we will still face trials of many kinds, but He will graciously help us triumph over them, and use the trials to build character and wisdom into our lives.

 

It only makes sense to surrender to God, because when we do, we grow close to Him—which is His highest priority for us—and we begin to have an impact on our world.

 

And right now, at the start of the New Year is the perfect time to fully surrender to Him and allow Him to fulfil our destiny!

 

I have to do this every day.  I constantly have to fully surrender my life to Christ. In my life I have trusted many things, from my own talents and abilities to my profession to financial advisors.

 

When I fully surrender to Christ, when I fully trust Him for my provision, my future, my reputation and my blessings, that is when He can truly work in my behalf. Whatever I have to face, if I can face them with Jesus, I will be content!

 

IT’S TIME TO REALIGN

 

Is this the cry of your heart? Do you want to know the Savior and live in the fullness of His blessing each day? You can. David wrote,

Psalms 34:10 (ESV Strong’s)

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Young lions try their best, but they are young, strong and headstrong. This year, are you resolved to work harder, try harder, do your best more often, or are you ready to surrender and give it all to Jesus?

 

If you boarded a flight to Sydney from our local airport, and the pilot was just 1 degree to the east off, you would land 17 km out to sea! The only way the pilot can cause you to arrive at your destination is to constantly realign the direction of the plane.

 

At the start of this year, we need realignment. We constantly need realignment. We need to be totally surrendering daily to God, and we can start right now.

 

If you have drifted in your devotion to the Savior last year and feel as though you grow more distant each day in your relationship with Him, then pray that He will draw you near once more. He knows your weaknesses, and if you will tell Him that you want Him to take control of your life in total surrender, He will come to you in a mighty way and bring hope and light to your situation, no matter how dark and hopeless it may feel…

Isaiah 55:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

 

IT’S TIME TO TAKE ACTION

 

Charles Blondin, the great French tightrope Walker, became famous in 1860 for walking across a quarter of a mile of tightrope stretched 160 feet above Niagara Falls. He performed the feat many times in a variety of death-defying ways, including on stilts, on a bicycle and blindfolded. He even carried a small stove and eggs across, and stopped halfway to cook an omelet!

 

Then he took a wheelbarrow across the falls, and asked the huge crowd if they believed he could carry a man in the wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls. They enthusiastically replied, “Yes, you’re the greatest tightrope walker in the world.”

 

“Ok!” He replied, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow?”

James 2:17-18 (ESV Strong’s)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

You’ve heard me call for total surrender this morning, and you can sit and applaud my fully committed heart. But today, I’m asking you to get into the wheelbarrow, I’m asking you to respond by not just listening, not just agreeing, not just thinking or resolving, but by stepping out and doing…

 

William Booth said, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”

 

How great do you want to be in this coming year? Can you offer God total surrender?

Today is a major day in the history of this church. It is a day of fresh beginnings, it is a day of fresh vision. As you can see, the stage is different, no longer black and dull because we have added a little colour. It is also the day when we launch our new name.

 

WHY CHANGE YOUR NAME?

 

Now some people think this is a great idea, while others are not so sure. This is not about whether it is your preference or not, I have sensed for 2 years and had it confirmed in dozens of ways that we need to change our name. Why change your name?

 

If you look throughout the Bible you will see that many times names were changed at significant points in people’s lives especially after encounters with God. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul, Judas became Mud! Encounters with the Lord caused new direction in the lives of these men, and sometimes, but not always, it was accompanied by a change of name.

 

In Bible times a name should tell you something about a person, and so it is with us.

 

The name Coast Church has been around for several years, and is quite a strange one. We are nowhere near the coast, we get mixed up all the time with Suncoast Church, and we have significant history both good and bad, some of which is great and some of which we need to distance ourselves from.

 

The other week at our national conference I believe the Lord spoke clearly to me confirming once again the name change, and He used the phrase “draw a line under the past.” So today, we draw a line under the past, take our eyes from the past and look to the future!

 

And also this very week in my quiet times came a verse which I believe some of us need to hear…

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong’s)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

Today God is doing a new thing among us, and I believe this change of name is a new thing that will yield fruit long into the future. The leadership have been seeking the Lord for many months regarding His choice of name, and we wanted one that spoke prophetically into the future the Lord has for us.  So without any further ado, here is our new name…

 

IGNITE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

 

Went camping a few weeks ago, and lit a small fire. Just after I lit the fire, a massive storm blew up, and I watched the tiny flame whip up into something extraordinary. As the wind rushed across the little fire, the embers glowed, the flames grew and the sparks began to fly far away. At this point God spoke into my heart and said, “This is what I have destined for you!”

 

I shared this with a few pastors in oversight last week, and they loved it. They believed that Ignite speaks prophetically into our church about the task ahead, to ignite fires of the Holy. Spirit right across this great land. And, after input from many including our prayer folk, it was decided to call it a Christian Church, because of the evil times in which we live. We will proudly profess to be Christians, no matter the consequences in these troubled days!

 

Now you might be thinking that calling yourself ignite is a brave move for a group of people who live in a 100 year old wooden building, but I want to share my vision of how Ignite Christian Church can set your life ablaze with the power of God.

 

FIRE AS A SYMBOL

 

Fire is a frequently used symbol in the Bible. It is a symbol of judgement at Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s a symbol of sacrifice for Abraham and Isaac. In the temple, fire denoted sacrifice too, and Paul continues this image when he talks of us being a living sacrifice in Roman 12:1.  Fire was a key image of God’s guidance right through the Exodus, leading, guiding and protecting God’s people

 

Exodus 13:21 (ESV Strong’s)

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

 

And of course when the Holy Spirit was poured out…

 

Acts 2:2-4 (ESV Strong’s)

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

 

Fire is a powerful and arresting manifestation of the presence of God, and that’s why we are seeking the Lord as a Church and asking Him to ignite and fan into flame His presence among us.

 

Hebrews 12:29 (ESV Strong’s)

for our God is a consuming fire.

 

But enough of the theology, what do we hope this new name does for you as our church family? Let me share one fiery encounter…

 

Exodus 3:2-4 (ESV Strong’s)

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

 

The Hebrew for burning means fire, kindling, it also means it was ignited. So our prayer is that Ignite Christian Church ignites something special within you today! It was a bush on fire that turned Moses aside, and it will be a Church on fire, believers on fire that will turn a world aside that is heading to hell fire!

 

And I for one want to be on fire for Christ! If I am on fire, if the leaders are on fire, if the church is on fire with the power of the Holy Spirit, then chances are you will be ignited too! John Wesley was once asked why he attracted such crowds to his preaching, and he replied, “I set myself on fire in the pulpit, and people came to watch me burn.”

 

So this is what we want to ignite in you…

 

1.      IGNITE YOUR PASSION FOR CHRIST

 

Last week we talked about first love, and first love must involve passion. Now passion can be a good or a bad thing. I’m passionate about many things, but I’m especially passionate about the Lord Jesus. Passion is often described in terms of a burning within, so in a sense we want to ignite the right kind of fire as passion in your life.

 

In Romans 1:27 we see the bad side of passion,

 

Romans 1:27 (ESV Strong’s)

the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,

 

That’s not the passion we want to stir up, but rather passion for the One who saved your souls…

 

Romans 12:10-11 (ESV Strong’s)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

 

The phrase fervent in spirit is often translated “Keep the fire of devotion burning strong.”

 

In this church, we want to ignite a passion within you for Jesus Christ, and we want to stoke that fire until it is white hot, until it is all consuming. I’m asking the Lord for a church of on fire believers, so my prayer is that He ignites a fire of the Holy Spirit within all of us!

 

 

2.      IGNITE YOUR PASSION FOR THE LOST

 

Jeremiah proclaimed the word of the Lord to a generation that treated him with scorn and derision.  Frankly, he got tired of the attacks, and tried to keep his mouth shut and just let them go to hell… literally. But then he writes this…

 

Jeremiah 20:9 (ESV Strong’s)

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,”

there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones,

and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

 

The fire for evangelism kindled up or ignited and burned so deep within him that he could not stay quiet. And that is my prayer for all of us. That we ignite the fires of Evangelism so that we share our faith and see people coming to Christ on a scale we have never even dreamed of! Now I believe that we face persecution as Christians in this next season, but oh Lord, ignite a fire and a passion within us to share our faith and win this area to Christ!

 

 

3.      IGNITE YOUR PASSION FOR THE TRUTH

 

Truth is a dubious commodity these days, and even in the church we have well meaning but deluded people watering down God’s clear commands and truths. But when you ignite the truth it has a way of exploding in fire, searing consciences and burning the fakeness and self centred theories off like dross. Have you ever wondered why, on the road to Emmeus, the disciples said this…

 

Luke 24:32 (ESV Strong’s)

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

 

Their hearts were ignited because Jesus expounded truth to them, and when Jesus ignited the fire it was as if their hearts burned within them. And that’s our agenda here, we want to ignite a passion for the truth, and we want truth to be preached and taught and spoken about over coffee, and we want the truth of God’s Word burning within us, because the truth is what will set you free!

 

So we will continue to preach and teach the Word of God…

 

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV Strong’s)

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 

 

4.      IGNITE YOUR PASSION FOR WORSHIP

 

Worshipping the Lord is a part of our Christian life, and we want to ignite a real passion within all of us to worship the King of Kings

 

Psalms 39:3-4 (ESV Strong’s)

My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned;

then I spoke with my tongue: “O Lord, make me know my end

and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!

 

The Psalmist had ignited within Him a heat or a passion for worship, such that he could not but speak out the praises of the Lord! How small we are, how awesome God is, we want Church to ignite a passion for praise and worship that consumes us!

 

We are starting special meetings that will be just praise and worship, prophecy and prayers. I believe that these services will ignite a passion within us that will empower us to reach our community for Christ!

 

5.      IGNITE YOUR PASSION FOR YOU OWN MINISTRY

 

One of the central desires I have had as your pastor is to stir up the gifts that you have. This is why we do 101 and 201, and if you have a desire for ministry in your heart, this is the place for you. My calling, my passion is to release people into ministry. If you want to minister and make a difference in the lives of others, we have teams here that can help you, train you and give you opportunities that simply do not exist elsewhere.

 

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

The Greek word for “fan into flame” is a compound word anazo-pyro, where anazo means make alive and pyro means fire. So this word translates as to inflame, to kindle up or to ignite a fire.

 

If you long to be involved in ministry, this church can and will ignite the ministry flames in your heart!

 

 

6.      IGNITE YOUR PASSION FOR THE CHURCH

 

Ephesians 5:25 (ESV Strong’s)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

 

Jesus loves the church… many modern Christians don’t, many profess to love the Lord but hate Church, but Christ loves the church. We are still His plan for a fallen world.

 

I believe that on our coast, for every believer in church there is a believer dislocated from Church. Dislocated means not connected in. I have many times dislocated my shoulder, and I can tell you the experience is painful, sickening and when I do it, my arm is not functioning properly. So too, believers not connected to church are usually in pain, feeling separated and not functioning the way God wants them to.

 

And they’re mostly like this because someone in Church, usually the pastor, has offended them, or upset them, or bored them to tears.

 

Our prayer is that this church ignites a fresh a passion for the church, and for bringing others into the Church. A church that is a home, a place of peace and excitement, a place of love and support.  Are we perfect? No, of course not. But are we still God’s answer or a hurting world? Absolutely!

 

 

 

7.      IGNITE OUR NATION

 

Jesus said,

Luke 12:49 (ESV Strong’s)

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!

 

Already kindled? Already ignited? We face one of the bleakest times for Christianity in this nation, but if we ignite a fire together, then when it’s darkest we can shine more brightly than ever before!

 

Zechariah 13:9 (ESV Strong’s)

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver,

and test them as gold is tested.

They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.

I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

 

We are going to be tested, but by God’s grace, the truth of the Word of God and by the power of His Spirit, we will stand firm, and we will be refined by fire, ignited and consumed for our Jesus!

 

The vision for moving ahead in Ignite Christian Church is not to just build a big church. How do you start a bushfire? Not by building a big bonfire and toasting marshmallows, but by igniting a string of fires that spread and build momentum.

 

I believe we are called to ignite fires right across this area, and even beyond, and start a series of fires that will transform a nation! My vision is to plant new churches out of this one. And to build up those churches who are struggling. Let’s kindle the fire, let’s ignite a fire together and see revival fires sweep across our nation!

 

STAND WITH US

 

Ignite Christian Church is a new start, a fresh vision, but also I believe a God given prophetic word to our people. It’s time to unite and ignite, its time to not look back but to unite as one as we look to the future. It’s time to light a fire against which the gates of hell shall not prevail!

 

So what I’m asking of you this morning is how about it? Will you join us? You have the opportunity to stand with us and ignite these passions in your own life. I’m asking you to join with us to ignite the fire of God in our nation and believe God for revival in the great Southland of the Holy Spirit!

 

And what will this take? We need to discover the greatest strength we have as believers… unity!

 

Psalm133 shows us that when we have unity, we will see the Lord bestow His blessing, even life forevermore. Last week we attended our state conference, and they spoke on unity. It was said that when we unite around a God given vision for the Church, God can do wonders. Unity is not about just getting along, it’s not about us enjoying unity and peace. No, it’s far more than that.

 

That Psalm talk about unity seeing a flow of anointing oil, overflowing the face and beard of Aaron

 

Psalms 133:2 (ESV Strong’s)

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard,

on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

 

What it is talking about is the flow of the Holy Spirit. Disunity blocks the flow, but if we stand together, united and ignited in unity, we will see a flow of the Holy Spirit such as we have never seen before!

 

So that is the challenge… We may not see eye to eye on everything, but if we are mature enough, we can walk hand in hand and arm in arm. So will you join us and ignite the fires of revival, in your own heart, in our church and across our nation?

Listen to Exceedingly Abundantly more than you might expect from 3 preachers… messages from Pastor Marie Cartledge and Reverend Doctor Bill Newman on  the live podcast.  And here’s the notes from Pastor Darin’s message…

Ephesians 3:20

Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

 

Today we celebrate God doing exceedingly abundantly in obtaining for us this wonderful building.

 

When I took office a year ago, the purchase of this property was by any human measure impossible. Our small body of believers would have to give more than 4 times what they had given over 7 years, in the space of only one year to even come close.

 

Matthew 19:26

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

Today, we celebrate the purchase of this building, and the God of the impossible! But this morning I ask you church, Where to from here?

 

GOING FORWARD EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY

 

As I quoted once before, when Winston Churchill celebrated the first allied victory of the war in Africa, he said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps it is the end of the beginning.”

 

Purchasing this building is not the end game, it is simply the first major financial hurdle we have faced as a church under my leadership, and by God’s grace and your generosity, we stand together here today in a building we actually own.

 

Coming up, there will be more challenges, more tests and therefore more opportunities to stand together shoulder to shoulder in faith, to believe our God and to see Him provide exceedingly abundantly beyond all we can ask or think.

 

Malachi 3:10, talking about giving says,

Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

 

Ok, we own the building, and this is what we celebrate today. Woo hoo! But this is not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning.

 

Here’s a promise…

Job 8:5-7

If you will seek God

and plead with the Almighty for mercy,

if you are pure and upright,

surely then he will rouse himself for you

and restore your rightful habitation.

And though your beginning was small,

your latter days will be very great.

 

It is tempting to look around and say to ourselves, “We’ve arrived!” But brothers and sisters, we haven’t arrived anywhere much! We are still on the journey, like being on a journey from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne, and we’ve just made it to Caboolture..

 

So I’m hoping that none of you guys will be like my kids were, who asked me before we reached the end of our street, “Are we nearly there yet?”

 

Were nowhere near nearly there yet! We are on an incredible journey, and we have only just begun.

 

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future, and as we have explored in recent weeks, God is awesome, all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, all present and ALL FOR US, exceedingly abundantly all for us.

 

We can trust Him on this journey. And as I look around at this church, the people not the building, I recognise that He has done something wonderful in our hearts as well.

 

Wonderful, but not enough, because the Bible says,

 

Haggai 2:9

The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts.

 

That’s our prayer Lord for this community of believers… let what is to come be greater by far than anything that has come before. Let it be exceedingly abundantly beyond what we can ask or think, and I can think quite a bit!

 

Ahead, I have a vision for this church. I want to see us become a church that empowers each believer to reach their full potential in ministry. I would love to see us sending ministries all around the country and across the world. I want to see us ministering to our local people, restoring families and lives I want this church to be a safe place of learning, growing, empowering and equipping, where people who’ve been hurt elsewhere can find a home, and where those who have sat in a pew elsewhere can find a place to serve and GROW their ministry.  And yes, I believe we all have a ministry!

 

My job is to let you reach your full potential in Christ.

 

So, folks, today we celebrate God’s faithfulness and blessing in obtaining this building, but what is the way ahead? Let me challenge you church on how we should keep seeking the Lord from here.

 

THE 7 MAINSTAYS OF THE WAY AHEAD

 

 

1.     STAY THANKFUL

 

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Today we are thankful to the Lord, but we need to continue in this attitude ad infinitum. We should always be thankful for all the blessings we receive in our nation, we should be thankful for the blessing we have as families, as friends and as a church.

 

The children of Israel whined and complained, and suffered as a result. Bill Newman says the greatest sin of the western world is an ungrateful spirit, and he is so right.

 

So going forward we need to stay thankful for what the Lord has done. This is especially true for me, when I visit other pastors in their churches… thou shalt not covet thy neighbours crystal cathedral, right!

 

2.     STAY HUMBLE

 

1 Peter 5:5-6

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

 

I confess, I want God to raise our church up. I have a vision to become a church that releases people into ministry all around the world, that impacts its area, its nation and across the globe for Jesus.

 

The only way God will raise us up is if we stay humble!

 

Humility is a funny thing. I once was awarded a badge for humility, but they took it off me because I wore it!

 

As I share with other pastors that journey we have been on here, how the Lord brought in nearly a quarter of a million dollars in just one year to allow us to purchase this building, I am greatly humbled, because I realise I haven’t done this miracle… God has!

 

People say, you must have loads of rich people in your church. I reply, if we do, please point them out for me, because this miracle is not the result of having rich people in the church, it’s having humble, generous people and a rich Heavenly Father!

 

So never lose sight of the fact, this miracle is not from you or from me, it’s all about Him. To move ahead, we need to stay humble and serve…

 

3.     STAY SERVING

 

Sometimes we start to serve, then after a while enjoy it when others start  serving us. Then before you know it, you’re bossing people around or getting upset when they don’t do things your way.

 

You might call this pedantic, you might call it struggling for excellence. I call it selfish and controlling, and God calls it sin, plain and simple as that!

 

Mark 10:42-45

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

To become great, to reach our full potential as believers and as a church, we need to keep serving. Serve the Lord, sure, but let’s serve each other with humility and dedication.

 

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

Being servants means laying aside your own rights, your own agendas, your own ambitions and serving selflessly.

 

In our society people are always on about rights, always fighting for their rights. Gay rights, women’s rights, gender rights, land rights, worker’s rights, save the whale, save the koala. As Christians we should wrap them all together and have land rights for gay whales and then be done with it.

 

When you become a believer you have to give up pursuing your own rights and agendas, and become a servant. You get one right… the right to serve. As we move ahead, we need to stay serving.

 

4.     STAY TOGETHER

 

All of us, you and I, have been brought together by God. If we fragment, if we drift away, if we get slack about meeting and attending and being a part of things, we will miss out.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

We need to keep meeting, we need to encourage, we need to serve together. God isn’t just obtaining a building here, He is building His body to reach the world.

 

We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but we can stand shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand and arm in arm together as we serve God and see Him do exceedingly abundantly.

 

5.     STAY FOCUSSED

 

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

 

There are so many distractions, so many things screaming for your attention, and even as a church this is true. If we are to move into our destiny, we need to throw off the things that encumber us.

 

So what encumbers us? What weighs us down? SIN, yes, so we must stay clear of sin. But also, internal things in church can cause us to take our eyes off the destiny Jesus has for us. We can get so distracted by relationships, agendas, opinions and judgements that our ministry, our destiny as a church can be lost.

 

We need to love each other, overlook the faults, bear with one another, put our personal agendas and desires aside and join together in unity to move forward into our destiny together.

 

6.     STAY SEEKING THE VISION

 

Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,(or perish)

 

If I don’t have a vision for Coast Church, It will perish. If I have no vision for the future, we will start to die, drowning in  a pool of mediocrity. We will just become another church, playing church week by week, having a form of godliness, but denying the power.

 

I don’t want to do that. I can’t afford to do that. I will not leave you stranded drowning in averageness, playing church while the world perishes.

 

We need to not run ahead, not lag behind but stay with the vision.

 

Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India early last century, saw a vision of a grass slope leading to a sheer drop into infinite depths, and files of people walking over the edge. Occasionally a person stood on the edge trying to stop people falling over the edge, but most of the Christians were sitting around making daisy chains, oblivious to the lost, deaf to the screams of people perishing.

 

God has given me an Exceedingly Abundantly incredible vision for the future of this church. I’ve set in place leadership and structures that will allow the Lord to grow and direct our way forward.

 

And the way forward is to reach out and love people into the Kingdom.

 

We call people non Christians, unchurched, unbelievers… but they are just lost… the lost are lost, forever if people like us don’t reach out.

 

And this generation of believers, you and I, are responsible for this generation of souls all over the earth.

 

Bill often says, Moses was turned aside by a bush on fire. It will be a believer on fire, a church on fire that will turn a world aside that’s heading to hell fire.

 

Whatever happens, church, we must stay seeking the vision God gives us.

 

7.     STAY THE COURSE

 

2 Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

 

God is looking for faithful servants… He was back then, and He still is now. There’s not many, but I aim to be one and I hope you do too.

 

If we as a church are to move ahead, we must stay committed. We’ve given generously and faithfully, but it doesn’t stop here. There’s more we need to do, and into the future we need to give even more of our time, our money, our talents and everything we have.

 

And God will bless us exceedingly abundantly in return.

 

God is still looking for faithful servants, committed people and inspired leadership, and He promises that, if we stay committed, He will strengthen us for the tasks He has laid out for us.  And so…

 

Galatians 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

As we celebrate today, let’s look to the future.

 

We live in a society where we seemingly have lost the ability to see things through. We start things and drop off, commit to things then fade away. People drop out of school, uni, jobs or life!  One recent Hollywood marriage pledged, “I promise to love you until I no longer find you attractive.”

 

The road ahead will not be easy, but neither was the path to obtaining this building, right? Yet if we stay the course, if we keep on keeping on, giving and serving and looking to Jesus, no matter what comes against us, we will prevail!

 

 

STAY CLOSE TO GOD

 

As a church, as families, as individuals, we must stay close to God. All this year I have been banging on about staying close to the Lord, and that’s why we have so many people doing the daily Bible reading.

 

Why? Because living for the Lord is not just a Sunday thing. Staying close to the Lord is a daily walk with Him, that’s why Jesus asks us to take up our cross daily. Don’t turn up once a week for a big rev up, but decide right now, commit right now with me to live, and GROW and seek God daily, indeed every hour of every day.

 

As a church we’ve focussed on giving and seen God provide exceedingly abundantly beyond all we could ask or think, but we mustn’t stop here. Our focus going ahead must be on reaching our community for Christ, and I’ve asked my friend, my co-labourer and I believe Australia’s most anointed evangelist to share a few word to encourage us in the road ahead as we seek to share the exceedingly abundant blessings with our community…

Kairos Moments in a Chronos World?

Do you know what I am talking about?

 

Let’s pretend that your banker phoned you late last Friday and said he had some very good news. He told you that an anonymous donor who loves you very much has decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your account each morning, starting the following Monday morning. That’s $864 a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.

 

He adds, “But there’s one stipulation; you must spend all that money that same day. No balance will be carried over to the next day.  Each evening the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use.”

 

With a big smile, you thank your banker and hang up. Over that weekend you have time to plan. You grab a pencil and start figuring; $864 times seven equals over $6,000 a week times fifty-two. That’s almost $315,000 a year that you have available to you if you’re diligent to spend it all each day. Remember, whatever you don’t spend is forfeited.

 

So much for “Let’s Pretend”.

 

Now let’s play “Let’s Get Serious.”  Every morning Someone who loves you very much deposits into your bank of time 86,400 seconds of time—which represent 1,440 minutes—which, of course, equal twenty-four hours each day.

 

Now you’ve got to remember the same stipulation applies, because God gives you this amount of time for you to use each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the next day. There is no such thing as a twenty-six hour day (though some of us wish there were). From today’s dawn until tomorrow’s dawn, you have a precisely determined amount of time. As someone has put it, “Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you want to, but you can spend it only once.”

 

Time is something we feel we never have enough of, yet we give it away so easily. Someone once said, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

 

Time is a precious commodity… We all want more, and we all get the same amount. It’s how we use it that really becomes the precious commodity, isn’t it? It’s what we achieve with it.

 

So what does the Bible say about time, and how can that impact our lives and cause us to use our time more effectively in our modern, it,e poor society?

 

THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING!

 

There are 3 Greek words for time and each holds a different meaning.

 

 

  1. CHRONOS

 

CHRONOS time is what we mainly consider to be time… Hours, minutes, seconds. Hence we talk about a specific time or time frame, such as in

 

Acts 1:6-7

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

 

God set this type of time up. It is governed by the rotation of the earth around the sun, and it’s something we measure, and we keep to.

 

We live in a time based world. We live in a CHRONOS world. You have appointments, planes to catch, bills to pay, TV shows to watch, church to attend… And all of this is the time based CHRONOS.

 

  1. AION

 

AION is used to refer to an age, a cycle or a season, a span of time, for example a man’s lifespan. It particularly has reference to eternity or forever…

 

Matthew 12:32

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

 

John 6:51

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

 

  1. KAIROS

 

KAIROS time is probably the most interesting use of the word for time. It refers not to hours, minutes, days and years, but to a specific time when something significant happens. For example, 9-11 is a KAIROS moment in our history. Germany invading Poland in 1939. Roe vs Wade which opened abortions up. Not hours, minutes and days but times of significance, where history is made, destiny is determined and life is not the same afterwards.

 

In the Bible, this word is used of the occasions when God steps into time and space and does something incredible. The Red Sea, Jericho, Paul’s conversion experience, the cross. These moments can happen in history, in a nation, in a church or an individual’s life.

 

It is without doubt the most exciting time to live in. Obtaining this building is a KAIROS moment for our church, and there are more to come! But how can you Kairos Moments in a Chronos World?

 

Finding Kairos Moments in a Chronos World

 

In a CHRONOS world, the seconds tick by, and we cannot reverse it, slow it or stop it. The seconds become hours, the hours days, the days weeks, then months, then years then decades.

 

One day you’re studying at college, and before you know it the kids have grown up and gone their own way. You’re muddling along in a career, just making a living, just existing out of habit more than anything.

 

What does your life look like? Has it passed you by, or is it passing you by? If you had your time over again, what would you do differently?

 

KAIROS was the different meaning of time, and it refers to specific, God ordained times throughout history, sometimes called the right time or the right season. These are times of significance.

 

Titus 1:3

and which now at his appointed season (KAIROS) he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

 

KAIROS time has no past, present or future… It is based around significance.

 

So the real question is, “How do you find these KAIROS times in a CHRONOS world? How do you find God ordained significant when you live in minutes, hours and days?

 

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE…

Can You Find Kairos Moments in a Chronos World

 

Time marches on, and you cannot stop it, reverse it or even slow it.

 

How do you usually spend your CHRONOS time, and can you Kairos Moments in a Chronos World?

 

According to a study in US News from 1988, In a lifetime the average American will spend:

 

Six months sitting at stoplights

Eight months opening junk mail/email

One year looking for misplaced objects

2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls or waiting “on hold”

4 years doing housework

5 years waiting in line- Centrelink

6 years eating

18 years working

23 years sleeping

9 years watching TV or videos

 

The Bible describes time in this way…

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

 

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance, etc.

 

Everything has a time, and time is important to us because we are so locked into it. The farmer plants in season, the football season is preset, church is on Sunday, Tuesday night is Masterchef. Yet the God we serve transcends what we call time.

 

2 Peter 3:8

 

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

 

The thing is, if you transcend time, what does time even matter? When you are stuck in time, in CHRONOS time like we are, we are measuring, we are worrying and we are impatient for things to happen.

 

But God isn’t, because He is far above time. We get impatient, His timing is perfect. We live bound by schedules, appointments and time management issues, He exists above it all.

 

That’s why the all knowing, all present, all powerful God of all creation can just flow into our lives when we least expect it, and why He sometimes takes longer than we expect also.

 

IT’S ABOUT TIME WE FIGURED IT OUT!

 

KAIROS time is not about schedules and appointments, it’s about significant moments in time. It’s when God decides to invade our lives, and he creates Kairos Moments in a Chronos World. In the Bible, John the Baptist proclaimed the moment when the Messiah was coming, using the word KAIROS,

 

Mark 1:15

and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

 

The cross was another KAIROS moment,

 

Romans 5:6

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

 

KAIROS times are special times when God steps in and does something extraordinary. It can happen once in our lifetime, or it can happen every day if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit. You can find Kairos Moments in a Chronos World.

 

In John 11:6, Jesus is told that his friend Lazarus is sick, but He delays going to heal him for 2 days. Why? The CHRONOS time delay saw Lazarus’ death and allowed a KAIROS moment of Jesus raising his friend back to life!

 

And He can do it in your life too… He can create Kairos Moments in a Chronos World. Never despise the times when God does not seem to meet your time frame, because He may just be setting something extraordinary up for you!

 

He can orchestrate great things and include you if you listen to Him and Walk with Him. He can step in and do the miraculous. He can use you to do the miraculous in  another person’s life. Today this KAIROS God is calling you to step out of your CHRONOS life to join Him in KAIROS moments.

 

Look at Esther. A young lady whose beauty placed her in the position of royalty which enabled her to save her people.

 

Esther 4:14

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

 

But if you live in a CHRONOS world, how can you find these incredible Kairos Moments in a Chronos World? How can you dissociate yourself from the mundane, day by  day, drudgery of life and become part of something great, something significant, something eternal? We should always live our days looking for those moments, those inexplicable times when His will and His way intersect with our daily walks… But most often that’s not how we live, right?

 

Perception is a huge part of discovering these incredible Kairos Moments in a Chronos World, the right times… the opportunities to be used incredibly by God to touch people’s lives are all around, but we don’t even see them! We fail to perceive them! Listen to this true account…

 

Charles Francis Adams, son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of President John Adams, kept a diary. One day he entered: “Went fishing with my son today—a day wasted.”

 

His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: “Went fishing with my father—the most wonderful day of my life!” The father thought he was wasting time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time.

 

Same time observed from 2 different perspectives. One saw a waste, the other saw something significant. One saw CHRONOS, the loss of hours, minutes and seconds, while the other saw KAIROS, something far beyond, something special!

 

So how can you set about finding these significant KAIROS moments in a CHRONOS  World?

 

 

 

 

They can happen anytime! A friend calls you out of the blue and you get the chance to speak an amazing word in season.  A child’s innocent joy pierces a long, hard day of struggle. A coworker takes a moment to lend a hand. God is always surprising us with His perfect, KAIROS timing.

 

 

Habakkuk 2:3

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;

it speaks of the end

and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it;

it will certainly come

and will not delay.

 

STEPS TO LIVING KAIROS MOMENTS in a CHRONOS WORLD…

 

So how can we find and live these special Kairos Moments in a Chronos World?

 

  1. STAY CLOSE TO GOD

 

Read the Bible daily, pray, seek the Lord, because these incredible, inspiring moments are all around us, if only we will walk every moment with Jesus. It might be a phone call from a friend, or a chance meeting where you say the right words at the right moment.

 

Acts 17:28

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

 

  1. BE SENSITIVELY LISTENING AND LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES

 

Be alert. Be sensitive. Sometimes things you may not even want to do can open the door for the Lord to use you to impact the life of another! You can discover these Kairos Moments in a Chronos World…

 

John Egglen had never preached a sermon in his life. Never.

 

Wasn’t that he didn’t want to, just never needed to. But then one morning he did. The snow left his town of Colchester, England, buried in white. When he awoke on that January Sunday in 1850, he thought of staying home. Who would go to church in such weather?

 

But he reconsidered. He was, after all, a deacon. And if the deacons didn’t go, who would? So he put on his boots, hat, and coat and walked the six miles to the Methodist Church.

 

He wasn’t the only member who considered staying home. In fact, he was one of the few who came. Only thirteen people were present. Twelve members and one visitor. Even the minister was snowed in.

 

Someone suggested they go home. Egglen would hear none of that. They’d come this far; they would have a service. Besides, they had a visitor. A thirteen-year-old boy.

 

But who would preach? Egglen was the only deacon. It fell to him.

 

And so he did. His sermon lasted only ten minutes. It didn’t make a lot of sense, he struggled to make any point at all, but in the end, a strange courage stirred him and He lifted his eyes and looked straight at the boy and challenged: “Young man, look to Jesus. Look! Look! Look!”

 

Did the challenge make a difference? This boy grew into a man who said,. “I did look, and then and there the cloud on my heart lifted, the darkness rolled away, and at that moment I saw the sun.”

 

The boy’s name? Charles Haddon Spurgeon. England’s prince of preachers.

 

 

  1. BE OBEDIENT

 

2 John 1:6

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

 

If you do not obey, why would God open the way for you to do incredible things? You need to covenant with Him to obey, and keep obeying, no matter what. Why else would He open up Kairos Moments in a Chronos World for you?

 

Being obedient turns the Holy Spirit’s prompting into action. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

 

I remember sitting next to a guy on a plane. He wasn’t talkative, he looked sad. I felt led to talk to him, and he told me he was returning home after years away living a sinful life,  to his wife and now older children. He was terrified, and before we left the plane I was able to pray for him and lead him to Christ, and pray for this visit. A KAIROS moment indeed.

 

 

 

  1. FAITHFULLY PERSIST, NEVER GIVE UP

 

Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

 

Don’t give up! Don’t stop short! If you experience a KAIROS moment, keep going until the Lord releases you. Greatness is never obtained by giving up or giving in. Purchasing this building has been a struggle from day 1, but I’m glad I decided not to give up, and so did you!

 

 

  1. GIVE SACRIFICIALLY, NO MATTER HOW SMALL

 

Luke 21:1-3

 

The Widow’s Offering

21:1-4pp — Mk 12:41-44

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.

 

Here’s an account from Dr Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world…

 

Seeing that only a miraculous intervention of God would deliver us from a catastrophe, I joined the intercessors at Prayer Mountain. One evening while we were meeting to pray on the ground floor of our unfinished church, several hundred joined me in prayer. An old woman walked slowly in my direction. As she approached the platform, I noticed that tears were filling her eyes. She bowed and said, “Pastor, I want to give these items to you so that you may sell them for a few pennies to help with our building fund.”

 

I looked down, and in her hands were an old rice bowl and a pair of chopsticks. I said to her, “Sister, I can’t take these necessities from you!”

 

“But, Pastor, I am an old woman. I have nothing of value to give to my Lord; yet, Jesus has graciously saved me. These items are the only things in the world I possess!” she exclaimed, tears now flowing freely down her wrinkled cheeks. “You must let me give these to Jesus. I can place my rice on old newspapers, and I can use my hands to feed myself. I know that I will die soon, so I don’t want to meet Jesus without giving Him something on this earth.” As she finished speaking, everyone there began to weep openly. The Holy Spirit’s presence filled the place, and we all began to pray in the Spirit.

 

A businessman in the back of the group was deeply moved and said, “Pastor Cho, I want to buy that rice bowl and chopsticks for one thousand dollars!” With that, everyone started to pledge their possessions. My wife and I sold our small home and gave the money to the church.  This spirit of giving saved us from financial ruin.

 

When you find yourself part of something great, some incredible KAIROS moment in time, rejoice and give all you have! You are blessed to be a part of what God is doing to touch the lives of men and women.

 

 

TODAY, WE STAND ON THE BRINK OF GREATNESS!

 

 

Today we have the opportunity to give again towards the purchase of our building. It has been a long, hard road to get here, but today we stand on the brink of this noble achievement.

 

This is our Kairos Moments in a Chronos World!

 

When I took office a year ago, the purchase of this property was by any measure humanly impossible. Our small body of believers would have to give more than 4 times what they had given over 7 years, in the space of only one year to even come close.

 

Matthew 19:26

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

Today, we stand on the brink of the impossible. This our Kairos Moments in a Chronos World!

 

Yet I want you to know that, as Winston Churchill said after the first allied victory of the war in Africa, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps it is the end of the beginning. The chance to close a chapter and move on to something greater,greater KAIROS moments.

 

Purchasing this building is not the end game, it is simply the first major victory we faced, and by God’s grace and your generosity, we stand on the brink of that victory to today. Coming up, there will be more challenges, more tests and therefore more KAIROS moments, more opportunities to stand together shoulder to shoulder in faith, to believe our God and to see Him shine His blessing and prosperity upon our service for Him.

 

Malachi 3:10, talking about giving says,

Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

 

Today we stand on the brink of greatness, on the cusp of passing this first great test with distinction, on our kairos moments in a chronos world . There is much more to do, so much more that God has called us to, and I have nothing to offer you but all my efforts and an undying faith and unshakable belief that God has called and empowered us to win this area and this nation to Christ.

 

Last offering God challenged Fiona and I to double what we gave the previous time. This was painful and sacrificial, yet I trusted God then as I do now. Today, He has once again challenged us to double even that figure, and so we shall be faithful in trusting Him again.

 

In addition, you may know that I basically work for free as the pastor of this church. Today, I want to also announce that I will commit myself to working in the same capacity for at least the next year. So your pastor stands before you this day ready to lay his life, his family and his finances down to serve the Lord in this place.

 

Right now I challenge you to join me. I challenge you to step into this KAIROS moment and and be a part of something great in God. I challenge you to join us, for today you do not give towards a building, or a man… Today you sow into your destiny and your children’s destiny.

 

Today is your chance to shine! This is your Kairos Moments in a Chronos World, so step up and follow God into your destiny!

Building Destiny together means more than obtaining a building. This week we net unconditional to buy the building we meet in.  It has been a labour of love, but we are now in a position to move ahead.

 

Question is, move ahead to what?  Are we Building Destiny  or just going through the motions?

I was doing the Bible reading program this week, and was struck with the similarities between our saga and that of Nehemiah.  So today I want to talk about Building Destiny for the future, and how we as a body of believers can move into our God ordained destiny as a church, and as individuals.

 

THE STORY SO FAR

 

After years of the nation of Israel and Judah rebelling against God, they went into exile, The northern kingdom of Israel first in 722BC, and the southern kingdom of Judah in 587BC. The best people in the land were carted off to Babylon, which is where we read of Daniel in the lion’s den and the 3 young men in the furnace.

 

Then Babylon is defeated by Persia.

 

After 70 years we read this in 2 Chronicles 36:23

 

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’”

 

After 70 years of exile, as prophesied earlier, a team was sent back to Jerusalem under Ezra the priest. They decided to rebuild the temple, but the walls of the city lay in ruins. There had been 2 attempts to rebuild, but things were not going well.

 

In ancient days, a city without walls was a weak city, easy to invade, easy to exploit. It was imperative that those walls be rebuilt, lest the city never reach its destiny and greatness.

 

Nehemiah was not just about building walls, he was about building the future of his people.

 

So we pick up the story in Nehemiah chapter 1… Nehemiah was asking after the returning exiles, while he was till in Babylon serving a Persian King Artaxerxes as cupbearer (and taste tester, a very important and trusted position the court).

 

Let me try and put this into modern terms…

 

Your dad, who lives in another state, calls to tell you the factory that’s always served as the main source of employment in your family’s hometown has been sold. The new owners are closing down the plant and moving production overseas. Many family members and friends will endure unemployment. Your hometown faces a severe economic depression as other businesses inevitably shut down.

 

Coincidentally, you work as a vice president in the same industry, and you know your company is exploring options for expansion.

 

What would you do? Where would you start? How can you be sure of what God wants you to do?

 

Steps to Building Destiny Together from Nehemiah’s Experience

 

1.     IDENTIFY THE NEED

 

In the book of Nehemiah, he was about Building Destiny for his people, and the first thing he did was to identify exactly what the need was…

 

Nehemiah 1:3

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

 

The wall, the protection for the city had been burnt down. Nehemiah was a cup bearer to the King, what could he do? He saw the need, and his heart was deeply moved, but helping his people was not within the scope of his current job.

 

This was how I felt facing taking on Coast Church. I had not been a pastor before, and did not know the intricacies of the job, but I knew my God and I knew His voice and the need and the challenge stirred my heart. And I Covenanted to be obedient to His Word. Much of what God said at time time came from this very book!

 

So I saw the need. You see the need today in and around this church. There are millions of needs paraded before us, orphans, drugs, conflict, World Vision, Compassion, etc. I’m sure Nehemiah could see needs in the city where he served, called Susa. So why would the needs of people he didn’t know a thousand miles away be the ones that moved him?

 

Because God was stirring his heart, just as God is stirring your heart to be here. These are your people, this is your future and destiny, but what exactly are you to do? Ask God to help you see specific needs and roles right here where you can serve and help. Ask God about building destiny right here and your role in it.

 

Our time and resources are limited, we cannot assist every worthy cause. How, then, can we know which goals God is calling us to work on? Like Nehemiah, consider what most pricks your conscience, stirs your emotions and makes the best use of your abilities. That is often the sign you need to move forward. Do the Coastal Journey.

 

And Coast Church is the perfect vehicle to serve the Lord.

 

2.     PRAY, DON’T BE MR FIX IT!

 

Nehemiah didn’t sit down and figure out how he could fix it, he turned to the Lord in prayer…

 

Nehemiah 1:4

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

 

After hearing the news about Jerusalem, Nehemiah did not merely rush to implement his grand plan of action. Instead, he turned to the spiritual disciplines… Fasting and praying.

 

In preparation for any significant undertaking, our first step should be the same as Nehemiah, who “fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”.

 

As a guy, I’m your classic all action hero. I make decisions fast, and furious, and follow through on them. That’s a typically bloke thing to do. But it’s not God. God is about Building Destiny, not just solving problems as they arise!

 

So often even godly people make decisions then ask God to bless them. It’s the wrong way around.

 

We need to pray, ask God what He wants us to do, and then obey. So guys, with the church, don’t try and fix it… Pray first and ask God what He wants to change, and what your involvement could and should be.

 

3.     ASK GOD FOR HIS VISION

 

Destiny is not something vague that smashes you in a certain direction… It is a series of choices, and making God’s choices is the greatest way of Building Destiny.

 

So ask God for clear, concrete visions and objectives—

 

Nehemiah 2:4-5

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

 

When King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah, “What is it you want?” (v. 4), the servant didn’t give a vague, abstract answer, such as “to save and protect the Jewish remnant.” Or “To grow a big church.”

 

So often we want our church to grow, and that’s fine but that’s not what we should be about. Having a vague idea we want to be successful gets you absolutely nowhere! If we are to build destiny, we need to do it God’s way.

 

Instead Nehemiah provided a clear and concrete objective: to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. God gave him a plan, and he shared that.

 

Proverbs 29:18

 

Where there is no vision, the people perish: KJV

 

Proverbs 29:18 MESSAGE

If people can’t see what God is doing,

they stumble all over themselves;

 

Some versions say without vision the people cast off restraint, or self destruct.  If I offer you as a church no vision, then the church self destructs.

 

Last week, in the midst of all the distractions of trying to get the loan for this building, I attended a pastor Masterclass and God laid out a plan in my heart for the future of this church. I am not flying blind, I am not stumbling in the dark hoping God does something miraculous. I asked for His blueprint to grow the church going forward, and as He promised, He laid it out for me. He has shown me how He wants to be Building Destiny in our lives through this church.

 

Proverbs 19:21

 

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,

but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

 

Make your own plans at your own peril! God is in the house, and God has a plan and a purpose for this church, and your part in this church. So pause, ask Him His perfect plan, His objectives, His will,  and follow Him. Don’t just make some crazy thing up, order Him to meet your wishes then get mad at Him when it doesn’t come to pass!

 

I stand before you with a vision for this church, and your role in it. God has already shown me where many of you fit in, so if you want to follow the Lord into your destiny, pray and step up… There I nothing greater in the Christian life than serving where you are destined to serve!

 

4.     ASK GOD FOR HIS TIMING

 

Nehemiah 2:6

And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.

 

First thing the King asked was, “What’s your time frame.”

 

When King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall, he also asked him how long his journey would take and when he would return.

 

Nehemiah could have easily answered—as many of us would today—that never having built a wall before, he had no idea, or that because God had given him the goal, only God knew how long it would take.

 

Instead, he immediately “gave him a time” (Ne 2:6).

 

When setting our own goals, we can follow Nehemiah and “set a time.” For instance, rather than setting a nonspecific goal to “memorise Scripture” we can make time-bound objectives, such as “I will memorise four verses in 30 days.”

 

A vision without a time frame is just a wish, nothing more. If we are building destiny together, we need more than a vague vision… we need a time frame!

 

 

Saying we want to be a big, successful church is not a proper plan. Having the right plan and implementing it sometime when we get around to it will still not achieve the result. You need to have a vision, a plan and a time frame.

 

For us, God has laid out a plan which we will run with once I have shared it one on one with key people over the next few weeks. Within 1 month, I believe things should be in place!

 

We then set our sights on achieving the plan. Step one, we want to fill this building in a Sunday morning. Step 2, we flip to multiple services, and so on.

 

We are not floating in a soup of maybes and wannabes, God is speaking to my heart daily and I have a vision for the future, and a structure He has given me. Coast Church is moving ahead, and we have a destiny together to serve the Lord and reach out to our community for Jesus.

 

Even better… I have a plan and a timetable!

 

 

5.     GATHER TEAMS TOGETHER AND INSPIRE THEM

 

 

When I first stepped up to become senior pastor I was told that this church will never be led by a team.  Today, we are led by a great team, and our entire structure is about to be changed so that everything about our church family, all work, all ministry and everything, is going to be team driven. Building Destiny is about building teams.

 

Why? Because Jesus did it, and that’s good enough for me!

 

He wasn’t a one man band, He trained and inspired his team… The inner 3, the 12, the 70, the 120 and so on.

 

Nehemiah did it too… he assessed the situation, formulated a plan and then gathered team members…

 

Nehemiah 2:11-12

So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode.

 

Nehemiah 2:16

And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.

 

But then this is the very next verse…

 

Nehemiah 2:17-18

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.

 

It is pointless recruiting others when you don’t have plans, or if you have plans other than God plans. As your pastor, I have to develop a plan before recruiting and inspiring you and Building Destiny  together!

 

Arriving at  Jerusalem, Nehemiah initially did not inform anyone of his plans (see 2:16). It was only when he had adequately assessed the situation for himself, when he knew what was needing to be done, that he began to tell others and recruit them in completing his God given objectives.

 

But even when he knew what was to be done, how could he inspire these good but tired and downtrodden, discouraged people? By connecting them with the vision.

 

An old traveller met two stonemasons who were chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, for he frequently looked at his watch while he worked. When the traveller asked what he was doing, the first mason responded, “I’m hammering this rock—and I can’t wait til I can stop.”

 

The second mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his task he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I’m building a cathedral!”

 

I stand before you today with what I know is God’s plan for our church in my heart. I’ve written it down, and spoken to many leaders, all of who, are on board and excited. I’m not a deaf, blind and drunk sailor steering a rudderless ship! I know I have God’s plan in my heart, and the next many months are going to be exciting and something you just won’t want to miss!

 

If you want to be part of something incredible, if you want to join a winning team, this is your moment! The lure is not going to be chipping rocks, you have the opportunity to join me and others building a cathedral!

 

If you want to serve the Lord, if you want to discover your gifts and find a place to serve Jesus that you love, you’re  in the right spot… Whatever your gift is, welcome home to Coast Church. You have a destiny here!

 

6.     EXPECT OPPOSITION WHEN BUILDING DESITNY FROM OUTSIDE

 

 

Not everyone is in synch with my heart for this church. Everyone wants to be part of a successful church, but not everyone will agree with everything.

 

There will be opposition, sometimes from those we love most! Sometimes it will be from outside, and sometimes from people who were here and no longer attend this church. Why listen to them, when they are not Building Destiny with us?

 

Nehemiah 2:19-20

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

 

Notice how they attack? They falsely accuse you of things you have not done.

 

Nehemiah 4:1

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews.

 

They get angry and jeer you, insult you, try to ruin your reputation.

 

Nehemiah 4:8

And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.

 

They plot and try to undermine the work of God.

 

Nehemiah 6:2-3

Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

 

They arrange pointless meetings, they interrupt what you are doing, but we need to say,

“Sorry, I don’t have time to meet with you, I am doing the work of the Lord!”

 

7.     EXPECT OPPOSITION WHEN BUILDING DESTINY FROM WITHIN

 

Even within our own ranks some people just want a nice little local church. Some just want to turn up and do their thing and that’s it. They want to attend, but they are not committed to Building Destiny with us.

 

Nehemiah faced not only attacks from outside, but from the very people he was serving. In a time of economic downturn, well to do Christians not only failed to give, but they exploited their poorer brothers, even into selling their children into slavery. The work on the building stopped because people got greedy and ceased being generous.

 

And Nehemiah got mad…

 

Nehemiah 5:6

I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.

 

Nehemiah 5:9-10

So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest.

 

If you are blessed with finances, now is not the time to abandon the work of the Lord. We still need money to complete the purchase, and later to expand. Make a convenient in your heart to give and bless others, and not only will God bless you in return, but you will know that you’ve been part of something great.

 

It’s not my church, it’s yours. Let’s join together to work hard and see God prosper us!

 

8.     LOOK TO YOUR LEADERSHIP AS AN EXAMPLE

 

Nehemiah 5:15-16

The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work.

 

I know many of you have been hurt in the past. I recognise that leaders have often taken advantage of you and your generosity, and your hard work. But as Nehemiah did, I stand before you as your leader willing to lay my life down for you and this church. Jesus said,

 

John 10:11

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

 

That’s my role. I work full time, and I pastor full time. I make no wage demands on this church, although you now give me a small amount off my house loan. Essentially, I work full time for income and I pastor full time for free. I also am committed enough to give to the point of pain in offerings we have for the building. I am committed to Building Destiny as God has called me to be, right here in this church and community.

 

I’m not saying this to big note myself. I’m not saying this to force your hand. I want to live as an example before you, giving my all, laying my life down, that you might be inspired to join the destiny of this church. As the leadership, so go the people, so I am figuring that if I serve you and encourage you, that you will do the same for others.

 

Nehemiah did not take what was due him as governor, and neither do I. Nehemiah gave of what he had and worked hard side by side with the people, and that too is my solemn pledge to you. Nehemiah was generous with his time, his skills, his money and his resources, and that is what I intend to do also.

 

God has challenged me and shown me that this church is destined for greatness, and I intent to give everything I have, finances, blood, sweat and tears to fulfil what God has called us to do. I am determined to give it all in Building Destiny in this place, for all of us!

 

As I read yesterday in my quiet time from Amy Carmichael, “If the Leader bears the brunt of the battle the soldiers can follow.”

 

I intend to serve hard, love hard, give hard, work hard and above all trust hard in the Lord!

 

So what about you? You can float along, you can just attend church, that’s fine. But I am betting some of you want to join a winning team. In fact, I challenge you to join me. I challenge you to stand side by side with me and the leadership and I challenge you to see what God will do in and through you at Coast Church.

 

THE CALL- BUILDING DESTINY TOGETHER

 

God called Nehemiah to rebuild the city and provide a home and a destiny for the people. He was Building Destiny for his people. God has called me to do the same. To rebuild this church, to restore it to the path of destiny God has for it, to follow Him with a pure heart and to lay my life down for the people I love. I am dedicated to  Building Destiny for all of us here in this place.

 

Next week, we will have an offering and I charge you to seek God and give as He calls you to give. This week, I challenge you to stand with me, shoulder to shoulder, to pledge to join me in the work of the Lord and to share the great destiny He has ahead for us.

 

Nehemiah 2:18

And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.

So come on, join us in Building Destiny at Coast Church!